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Class action certifications more successful in 2016

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Federal and state courts issued more favorable class certification rulings for the plaintiffs bar in 2016 than in previous years, says a law firm’s annual report on workplace class action litigation.

“Plaintiff lawyers continued to craft refined and more successful class certification theories to counter” the class action certification requirements established by U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Wal-Mart v. Dukes in 2011 and Comcast Corp. V. Behrend in 2013, says the Workplace Class Action Litigation Report issued Wednesday by Chicago-based law firm Seyfarth Shaw L.L.P.

Other key 2016 trends were:

• Key class action decisions this past year by the U.S. Supreme Court “were arguably more pro-plaintiff and pro-class action than business-oriented or anti-class action.”

• The monetary value of top employment-related class actions settlements declined significantly last year after reaching all-time highs in 2014 and 2015, although it is unclear whether this is the start of a trend “or a short-term aberration.”

• Overall complex employment-related litigation filings increased insofar as employment discrimination were concerned, although they decreased in the areas of Employment Retirement Income Security Act class actions, government enforcement litigation, and wage-and-hour collective actions and class actions.

• Wage-and-hour certification decisions increased “geometrically” compared with 2015.

• The Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continued their “aggressive” litigation programs, “but by sheer numbers of cases, their enforcement activities were arguably limited in their effectiveness, at least when measured by lawsuit filings and recoveries compared to previous years.”