LAWYERS WIN. . . AGAIN?

If you have heard me speak lately on the topic of the amazing increase in wage-and-hour claims you have heard me say that one of the reasons for this increase, particularly the increase in wage-and-hour class action lawsuits, can probably be traced directly to the fact that the FLSA has an attorney’s fees provision.

I know this is going to come as a big suprise to you but, lawyers, me included, like attorney’s fees.  So, I’m willing to bet that the lawyers who just reached an $85 million settlement to settle 39 consolidated wage-and-hour claims filed against Wal-Mart in Nevada must just be giddy.    According to the ABA Journal on line, U.S. District Judge Phillip Pro approved an award of up to one third of the total settlement amount Wal-Mart has agreed to pay in the consolidated cases that cover some 3 million employees.  

According to the Journal article, plaintiff’s lawyer, Carolyn Beasley Burton says that “Hundreds of thousands of the company’s workers can expect to see checks in the range of $150 to $1,000 in the next few months, . . .”  By contrast, the ABA Journal reports that more than 135 attorneys from 45 different law firms will share the awarded fees which could be as high as $28 million. Now if my math is right that means that if the lawyers share the fees equally (and they probably won’t) they will get $207,407.40 each. That’s just a bit more than the actual employees of Wal-Mart who were the people who were supposedly wronged.

What is the moral of this little story?  Well for one it seems to me it is better to be a plaintiff’s lawyer suing Wal-Mart than it is to actually work for Wal-Mart.  Second, you better get your wage-and-hour ducks in a row.  You see, just because the damages to one employee are small, that does not mean that a bunch of them won’t get together and end up costing you a bunch.  And it only takes one disgruntled employee to get this ball rolling.