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Policy reversals expected to affect class action litigation

Posted On: Jan. 5, 2021 5:52 PM CST

class action

Employers can expect stark reversals in policy with the administration change in Washington, which will have a “cascading impact” on private class action litigation, a report says.

The shift in administration “is likely to bring increased regulation of businesses, renewed enforcement efforts, and policy changes at the agency level that will result in efforts to abandon or overturn pro-business rules of the Trump Administration,” according to the 17th Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report issued by Chicago-based law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP on Tuesday.

Other key trends in workplace class action litigation developments, according to the report, include:

-Employers’ rush to adopt safety requirements in response to COVID-19  has led to claims that they failed to pay minimum wage or overtime for compensable work hours, to properly reimburse employee expenses and provide required leave, or to go far enough in protecting workers from the virus. “Employers are apt to see the workplace class action expand and morph as they restart operations in the wake of COVID-19,” the report says.

-The aggregate monetary value of workplace class action settlements increased in 2020, despite many observers’ expectation the pandemic would depress the size and pace of settlements.

-Government enforcement litigation slowed considerably, and because the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a majority of Trump-appointed commissioners in place at least through mid-2022, “it is likely that the EEOC will remain on its current trajectory into the start of a Biden Presidency.”

-In 2020, the plaintiffs bar successfully secured class certification at an increasing rate. “This state of affairs is expected to explode in 2021 with a more worker-friendly U.S. Department of Labor apt to make supposed wage theft its enforcement priority and to shift its regulatory focus toward a plaintiff-friendly agenda,” the report said.