2011 a “transformative year” for workplace class action litigation

Seyfarth Shaw’s latest report indicates that last year’s cases and trends will shape lawsuits in 2012

There’s no doubt about it: 2011 was a big year for class action litigation. Experts say a number of last year’s trends and cases are likely to shape the litigation landscape in 2012, particularly within the workplace class action arena.

Seyfarth Shaw recently released its eighth annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, which analyzes nearly 1,000 rulings and major settlements from 2011. The report notes that a number of factors—including the economy, an increasingly aggressive plaintiffs bar, revamped state and federal enforcement regimes, and major Supreme Court rulings—will impact labor and employment litigation this year and in years to come.

One major 2011 Supreme Court ruling has already made a big impression on class action litigation. Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., which established a new standard for certifying class actions, has already been cited more than 260 times in federal and state court opinions. Experts say that although Dukes was perceived as a win for employers, the momentous decision sparked the plaintiffs bar to refocus its litigation strategy, which could lead to more litigation.

“One of the inevitable consequences of Dukes is not a decrease in the number of workplace class actions, but a likely increase—the wrinkle being that the new difficulty in achieving nationwide certification is forcing the plaintiffs’ class action bar into seeking multiple state or perhaps regional class cases to improve the chances of certification,” says Seyfarth Shaw Partner Gerald Maatman Jr.

The report also found that wage and hour filings are outnumbering all other workplace class actions, with Fair Labor Standards Act actions leading the way. The shaky economy also is spurring Employee Retirement Income Security Act class actions seeking the recovery of 401(k) losses.

Furthermore, the report notes that the government is expanding its involvement in workplace litigation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which saw increased funding in 2011, is litigating larger pattern litigation, while the Department of Labor is increasing its oversight of industries that have frequent workplace regulation violations.

Click here to view Seyfarth Shaw’s Workplace Class Action Litigation Report.

Ashley Post

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