By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Federal courts around the country are seeing a rise in the number of lawsuit filed for wage and hour violations. Of the 94 federal districts nationwide, the Eastern District of New York (which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island) ranks fifth, and the Southern District (Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam counties) ranks third.
Between 2003 and 2012 the number of filings for wage and hour complaints have steadily increased. According to the Federal Judicial Center Statistics, in 2003 there were 6,727 civil filings in the Eastern District, with only 57 being wage and hour suits. In 2012 there were 6,580 civil filings in the Eastern District, and 579 of these filings were wage and hour complaints.
Despite a decrease in total civil filings the rate of wage and labor suits are accruing.
The Federal Labor Standards Act is a federal law that established the 40-hour workweek, minimum wage, and guaranteed overtime for certain jobs. In order to bring a FLSA action, one would have to show that an employee-employer relationship existed, that the FLSA applies to the employee-employer relationship, and that some aspect of the FLSA was violated. Once a purported employee is able to establish these three elements, the burden is on the employer to disprove the asserted facts.
If an employee wins a FLSA claim, they are entitled to their unpaid compensation in addition to the potential to recover their attorneys’ fees. The award increases if the FLSA violation was willful.
"If an employer fails to keep accurate time records, that in and itself is deemed willful," Jeffrey Gottlieb, a founding partner of Gottlieb & Associates, told the New York Law Journal.
New York state’s six-year statute of limitations, the increased public awareness and the possibility of a high award have been cited as reasons for the increase.
"The reason why plaintiffs keep bringing these suits is that defendants keep breaking the law," said attorney D. Maimon Kirschenbaum.