在美国，自从20世纪60年代民权法颁布以来，包括《1964年民权法第七章》（Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act）、有关堕胎权的罗伊诉韦德案（Roe v. Wade）以及严禁学校在学习和体育方面进行性别歧视的《教育法修正案第九条》（Title IX），从很多方面持续地推动了社会变革。这些变革也影响到了工作场所。劳资诉讼的核心毫无意外地都与这些问题相关联。
2011年，有超过7,000宗集合诉讼提交至美国联邦法院，按《公平劳工标准法》（Fair Labor Standards Act，FLSA）提起了薪酬和工时侵权诉讼，数量较2000年激增近4倍。
举一类常见的诉讼：员工声称被要求超时工作。这样的诉讼有一大堆，涉及从沃尔玛（Wal-Mart）到美林（Merrill Lynch）等众多公司。而且，美国最高法院（U.S. Supreme Court）正在考虑，葛兰素史克（GlaxoSmithKline）将外部销售代表归入豁免员工的做法是否合适。这些指控并不意味着公司做错了什么，但它们确实需要花相当的时间和金钱来为自己辩护。
Starting with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, including Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to Roe v. Wade, and Title IX, the second half of the 20th century was in many ways devoted to social change. These efforts reverberated throughout the workplace. And the core of employment-related lawsuits unsurprisingly involved these issues.
During those decades, we saw a dramatic increase in legal challenges to unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation at work. Employees appropriately fought against not only animosity based on gender, race, and national origin, for example, but also stereotypes based on them. Stereotyping is often a form of impermissible discrimination.
However, in recent years, something has changed. While we still see a strong and steady stream of discrimination claims, another type of employment suit has become the darling of plaintiffs' lawyers: wage and hour suits. In the employment arena, the civil rights revolution has morphed into a kind of wage and hour revolution.
More than 7,000 collective actions were filed in federal court in 2011 alleging wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an approximately 400% increase since 2000.
Some legal clarification: a collective action is a special type of class action suit that applies only to claims brought by a group of employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming they were not paid what they were owed because either they were misclassified as exempt from overtime or they were properly classified as non-exempt but they were not paid for some of the time they worked (for example, by being required to work off the clock without being paid.).
It's not just small employers that are getting hit. It's the big guys too. The deeper the company's pockets, the more attractive the target.
Take one common claim: employees claiming that they were required to work off the clock. There has been a salvo of such claims, from employees at companies like Wal-Mart (WMT) and Merrill Lynch. And the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether outside sales representatives for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) were properly classified as exempt from overtime pay. Claims don't mean the employer did anything wrong, but they do involve considerable time and money to defend.
What's driving this spike?
Overall, companies see the business benefits of keeping a tight ship when it comes to discrimination. To exclude someone because of who they are is to deprive your company of their talent. And as employers grow increasingly progressive and compliant with equal opportunity regulations, it may become a bigger business risk for a plaintiffs' lawyer to sue companies on a contingency basis, where they get paid only if they win. I know this will be shocking to some (or not at all, as the case may be), but plaintiffs' lawyers are not simply advocates for social justice.