Emerging Trends in Wage and Hour Litigation: What You Need to Know

Emerging Trends in Wage and Hour Litigation: What You Need to Know

Wage and hour litigation has seen rapid evolution in recent years. With new legal developments and shifts in the workplace, businesses must stay vigilant to avoid noncompliance. This article explores the key trends and provides practical guidance for employers.

Businesses can successfully navigate the evolving landscape of wage and hour laws by regularly conducting audits, staying informed about legal developments, and implementing robust policies and procedures.

Recent Legal Developments Reshape the Landscape

Major court decisions and regulatory actions have significantly impacted wage and hour laws. Some key developments include:

  • Surge in Department of Labor (DOL) Enforcements - The DOL recovered over $322 million in back wages for workers in 2022, increasing focus on wage and hour compliance. 

  • Growth of Class Actions - Class action lawsuits for wage violations rose 15% last year, especially in retail and hospitality. Plaintiffs leverage collective action for greater impact.

  • Expansion of Joint Employer Liability - Courts are enforcing joint employer status for related businesses, expanding liability in wage disputes.

  • New Salary Thresholds: Millions of workers are now enjoying improved salaries due to the new salary thresholds.

These decisions significantly widen the scope of wage and hour litigation. Check with a quality Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer when in need. Employers must comply with new standards to avoid legal vulnerability.

Challenges Presented by the Remote Work Revolution

Tracking hours and maintaining compliance becomes more difficult with remote employees. Some key issues include:

  • Off-the-Clock Work - Remote employees often end up doing unofficial overtime. Unpaid work time can trigger lawsuits.

  • Meal and Rest Break Monitoring - Keeping track of breaks is harder without direct supervision. Missed breaks can lead to disputes. Employing employee monitoring software can help prevent wage theft. 

  • Technology Introduces Gray Areas - Employees may feel obligated to be responsive off-hours due to access through technology and the blurring of work-life boundaries.

  • State Law Differences - Varying laws between states create complexity for remote employees living and working across state lines. 

Businesses must have clear remote work policies and implement timekeeping solutions to minimize wage and hour risks.

Class Actions Take Center Stage

Source: Economic Policy Institute

Class action lawsuits allow multiple employees to jointly sue an employer for systemic wage violations. These lawsuits are on the rise:

  • 15% increase in wage and hour class actions over the past year

  • Over $250 million recovered through recent class action settlements

  • Hospitality, retail, healthcare, and manufacturing are the most vulnerable 

Common allegations include unpaid overtime, manipulated timecards, and misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime. Digital tools enable attorneys to efficiently identify potential claimants for assembling class actions.

For businesses, proactive compliance and swift resolution are key to mitigating the risks of costly class action suits.

State Law Differences Multiply Compliance Challenges 


Wage and Hour Provisions


Stricter overtime rules, meal and rest break requirements

New York

Daily overtime pay after 8 hours, call-in pay laws


No state overtime law - follows federal FLSA


Higher minimum wage - $13 per hour

With over 25 states exceeding federal wage and hour standards, multi-state employers face a complex patchwork of compliance requirements. Some common variances include:

  • Higher minimum wages - Approximately 30 states require a higher base pay than the $7.25 federal rate.

  • Daily overtime - A few states like Alaska and California mandate daily overtime rather than weekly.

  • Meal breaks - Many states specify meal break duration and timing requirements. 

  • Exempt employee criteria - Some states use higher minimum salaries to qualify for overtime exemption.

To avoid compliance gaps, companies should consult local laws and implement suitable payroll practices in each operation area.

What Should Employers Do? 

With rapidly shifting legal standards and work environments, proactive measures are essential for employers seeking to avoid wage and hour liability:

  • Conduct audits - Perform internal audits to identify any inadequate compensation practices.

  • Review classifications - Ensure exempt employees meet all the criteria for exemption under the latest laws.

  • Implement time tracking - Use technology to accurately capture all work hours, especially for remote staff. 

  • Train managers - Educate supervisors on proper protocols for managing remote teams, addressing overtime, and following wage laws.

  • Consult legal counsel - Seek guidance to navigate nuances in state law differences and other emerging issues.

  • Stay updated - Monitor regulatory changes and court decisions to promptly realign practices.

The Road Ahead

The wage and hour litigation landscape will remain extremely dynamic in the coming years as regulations, case law, and work arrangements continue to evolve. 

Legal experts predict class actions will spike in industries undergoing digital disruption and the gig economy, where worker classification issues abound. Salary thresholds for overtime exemption may also increase further at both federal and state levels. 

The remote work revolution shows no signs of reversal; therefore, compliance issues surrounding tracking hours, on-call time, and monitoring breaks will persist. The growing patchwork of differing state and local laws will also contribute to compliance challenges.

To stay ahead, businesses will need to leverage current technologies, such as AI-powered auditing tools, advanced time-tracking software, and algorithms, to proactively detect non-compliance risks.

More companies may also turn to arbitration agreements as an alternative to litigation, but the enforceability of mandatory arbitration continues to be challenged in some states and court rulings.

Above all, organizations must prioritize the creation of a culture of compliance through training, transparency, and regular audits. As the past few years have shown, merely reacting to lawsuits is no longer prudent or sustainable. Through foresight and vigilance, businesses can play a pivotal role in shaping the road ahead.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the top factors driving the growth in wage and hour litigation?

The rise in remote work, state law differences, technology enabling class actions, and heightened regulatory enforcement are key factors contributing to the uptick in wage and hour disputes and lawsuits. 

How can businesses monitor remote employee hours accurately?

Implement time tracking software, set clear policies on hours and overtime approvals, train managers on proper virtual supervision, and use data analytics to identify irregularities to improve remote workforce visibility.

What are the consequences of misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime?

Misclassification can lead to lawsuits for unpaid overtime. Penalties under federal law can amount to double or triple damages in addition to civil money penalties per violation.