Employees in Kentucky who have been the victims of wage violations have a new option for financial compensation.

      In Kentucky, the Wages and Hours Act is a state law that regulates, among other things, the rights of employees to sue for lost or denied wages from the employer. This includes workers who believe that they have not been given minimum wage, have been refused overtime pay, have been denied breaks or are forced to work off the clock.

      Up until recently, employees that wanted to sue their employer for these wages had to do so by filing a suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal equivalent of the state’s Wages and Hours Act. The FLSA establishes the minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, record keeping, and child labor standards in the private sector and in federal, state and local governments. A decision in August by the Kentucky Supreme Court changed this process so that Kentucky employees can now file class actions locally.

       

      Benefits of a Class Action

      Class actions, or collective action, is when a group of people is represented in litigation.  In many cases, it’s as simple as opting into the class action to receive a portion of the settlement.

      “For example, client service associates at Morgan Stanley, the world’s largest brokerage firm, have alleged that they were repeatedly denied overtime pay. Three plaintiffs brought a class action suit on behalf of over 800 employees, which resulted in a $2.4 million settlement,” said FindLaw, a legal blog and attorney directory website. “Individually, their claims to back pay would likely have been too small to justify the cost of a lawsuit. A class action allows plaintiffs to join together to pursue recovery. Workers often have to do little more than opting in or signing up for the class action.”

      Additionally, whereas the FLSA lawsuits have a two or three-year statute of limitations, Kentucky law allows five years – meaning employees have more time to gather a suit against an employer.

      Employees of an employer that forces them to work without pay, fails to pay Kentucky’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, or fails to pay overtime, can be part of a class action against the employer together.

      “Employers that violate labor law, such as by refusing to pay overtime, often do so to many employees at once, not just to a single individual,” said FindLaw. “A class action lawsuit allows a group of workers who have suffered similar harm to come together and pursue their claims in a single court action. Suits brought under the FLSA are one of the most common types of workplace class action.”

       

      What This Means For Employees and Employers

      Because of the decision, it is expected that more cases will be brought before the Kentucky Courts – especially because of the comparative ease to become part of a collective suit and the extended statute of limitations.

      Class Action Increases 

      This decision comes on the heels of a 2017 report that estimated that the FLSA class actions would hit a record high in 2017. In 2015, 8,954 filings were made in federal courts regarding employment law – representing a 450-percent increase over files made just 10 years prior in 2000. Bloomberg also reported that “top 10 wage and hour settlements reached in 2016 totaled $695.5 million, up from $463.6 million in 2015.” The same study also found that class actions of this type have been awarding higher and higher amounts – with the total FLSA settlements nearly $2.5 billion in 2015.

       

      What To Do If You Need to File

      Wage law and employee compensation is both a federally and state regulated process, meaning that employees have the right to expect that their employers will honor those laws. If an employee believes that they have met one of the scenarios mentioned in this article, they should contact an employment law attorney to discuss the possibility of the case and their options.