According to study, 2017 had the highest workplace class action settlements ever recorded.
According to the annually completed Seyfarth Workplace Class Action Blog, 2017 had the highest monetary amount of class action workplace settlements in history. The monetary amount was determined by combining the top ten largest class action case resolutions of that year. 2017’s settlements amount of 2.72 billion was a marked increase over 2016’s 1.75 billion dollar number. The previous all-time high was recorded in 2015, at 2.48 billion.
According to the report, there was a slightly downward trend in the amount of wage-and-hour class action settlements, but an upward trend in the fields of employment discrimination, statutory workplace laws, and Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cases. ERISA class actions were the most profitable, with 927.8 billion in class action settlements last year.
Employment discrimination cases recorded their second highest monetary value since 2010, at 293.5 million. This is a reversal of the trend that started in 2011, where there was a multi-year decrease in the value of these claims. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Wal-mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, which tightened the requirements for what constitutes a class in class action cases. Critics of the opinion stated at the time that it would be difficult to certify a class under the new standard without a potentially prohibitive amount of discovery work.
This study seems to undercut those original Walmart fears and shows that plaintiff attorneys are becoming more creative in certifying large class actions. It could also be an indication that the original Walmart fears were overblown and the decision did not have the kind of impact many plaintiff side attorneys feared that it would.
Overall, these numbers show a positive trend in the workplace class action field. Plaintiff side class action awards are at an all-time high, even though the United States Supreme Court’s opinions in the field have trended conservatively in recent times. It is encouraging that class action cases have remained an effective legal tool for people to gain redress for their damages in the current judicial climate.