Overtime lawsuits are the hottest employment lawsuit trend. Nevada lawyer Mark R. Thierman is a demigod in this corner of the legal world. Thierman has won hundreds of millions of dollars from companies in unpaid wages. Beginning in the mid-1990’s, Thierman filed the first in a series of lawsuits against California employer after having spent most of his career as a management-side employment attorney.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires the payment of overtime and minimum wage for most workers. About 115 million employees—86% of the workforce—are covered by federal overtime rules, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Plenty of wage and hour lawsuits are filed on behalf of the traditional working class, be they truckers, construction laborers, poultry processors, or restaurant workers. In fact, some would say that wage and hour suits have generated a cottage industry for plaintiffs’ lawyers. But no one has been more successful than Thierman in collecting overtime for employees who are far from the factory floor or fast-food kitchen.
His biggest settlements over the last two years have been on behalf of stockbrokers, many of whom earn well into the six figures. Thierman has teamed up with other lawyers to extract settlements totaling about a half-billion dollars from brokerage firms, including $98 million from Citigroup’s Smith Barney and $87 million from UBS Financial Services Inc. (As is typical in settlements, the companies do not admit liability.) With those cases drawing to a close, he and other attorneys already are pursuing new claims on behalf of computer workers, pharmaceutical sales reps, and accounting firm staff.
BusinessWeek.com has a great article titled, “Wage Wars,” detailing Thierman’s Robin-Hood style ventures and the wave of overtime litigation sweeping major corporations across the country. Since 2000, overtime litigation has exploded nationwide. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce decried the “FLSA litigation explosion” and its having become the “claim du jour” for plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Thierman shrugs at such concerns. The alternative, in his view, would be to have the laws enforced by a government bureaucracy. Thierman professes to be helping the little guy: “I’m interested in the middle class—those are my folks.”