The Texas Lawbook recently published an article outlining the rise of wage and hour litigation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Natalie Posgate reported that exclusive data provided to The Texas Lawbook by Androvett Legal Media showed a spike in lawsuits pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, Posgate reported that Texas federal courts saw 422 FLSA lawsuits filed during the first half of the year. That number is up 16% from the same time period last year, and up 19% from the second half of 2019.
Wage and hour litigation increase has a direct relation of the pandemic-relate layoffs, especially within the energy industry. Prior to the pandemic and the results of mass amounts of employees working from home, workers would be less inclined to file FLSA claims than they are now. With extra free time and more financial uncertainty, these laid off workers are emboldened to act upon what they believe their employers are entitled to give them.
Dallas labor attorney Rogge Dunn of Rogge Dunn Group was interviewed in relation to the increase of employees across Texas suing for FLSA violations. He is quoted saying, “If they basically swing from an old trapeze to a new trapeze without any break in employment, oftentimes they will blow off claims they could otherwise make. If an employee is thrown off the trapeze by the old company and they start falling, they’re going to look for a safety net.”
While FLSA lawsuits have seen a steady increase in Texas since 2015, the mass layoffs, particularly in the energy industry, has tipped the scale towards even higher numbers. The volatility of this industry means that it relies on hourly workers and contractors, and its employees are prone to cyclical layoffs. Posgate describes the Texas oil patch as a “perfect breeding ground for FLSA litigation.”
Another reason for the increase in wage and hour litigation is the simple fact that there is a low barrier of entry and a lucrative nature to this type of law for plaintiffs. Therefore, the labor employment practice groups within law firms across Texas are receiving lots of action. This is due to many employers slipping up during this unemployment and work-from-home season.
Dunn, who represents both plaintiffs and employer defendants, offered a piece of advice to employers as wage and hour litigation increases. “When you have employees working remotely, you need to be on guard to make sure they’re paid appropriately and that they’re actually working when they say they are.”
Dunn also advises his plaintiff clients to “contact the DOL, read their website, Google the law and know your rights.”
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