Fighting for minimum wages in the courts

When President Obama announced that he will seek to increase the minimum wage of workers associated with federal contracts via an executive order, he increased the level of public debate in regards to a number of wage and hour issues affecting American workers today. In addition to minimum wage hikes for federal workers, many are pushing for a minimum wage hike for all American workers.

However, issues related to the minimum wage are not the only wage and hour issues sparking controversy right now. Many of our readers may not be familiar with the decision in last year’s case of Sutherland v. Ernst & Young LLP. In response to the merits of this case, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that employers may effectively block their workers’ attempts to become members of class action wage and hour disputes aimed at recovering overtime and minimum wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Essentially, this means that certain employers are allowed to compel their workers to sign certain waiver provisions that would effectively require workers to submit to individual arbitration for wage and hour dispute matters as opposed to litigating them through a class action suit. Given that individual arbitration can be far more costly than joining a class action suit, the Sutherland decision will practically block many workers from being able to fight for fair compensation.

If you have questions about mandatory arbitration provisions or about how the Sutherland decision may affect your ability to hold your employer accountable for unfair compensation practices, please contact an experienced employment law attorney.

Source: Albany Times Union, "New wage policies favor employers," Graig F. Zappia, Dec. 28, 2013

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