Negotiating Employment Contracts in Georgia

Wage-and-hour lawsuits may be a thing of the past

Every two weeks you get paid, and every two weeks you check your bank account. For some reason, this week, your paycheck was lower than it used to be—though it’s only a few dollars off. What can you do?

Once upon a time, the best thing you could do was band together with your coworkers and file a class action lawsuit. The United States Supreme Court, however, recently released an opinion that held that companies may use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prohibit workers from banding together to take legal action over workplace issues.

 “Our view is that it will likely have the effect that AT&T v. Concepcion case had concerning consumer contracts,” says class action attorney Adam Hoipkemier. “Employment defense lawyers and firms are coming out with products aimed at assisting employers with rewriting their contracts with arbitration clauses and class waivers. That trend is likely to escalate.”

These mandatory arbitration clauses do not mean that a claim doesn’t have the possibility to be heard. But it does control how a case can be heard. Arbitration still offers an opportunity for both sides of a dispute to be heard, and agreements in arbitration can be substantial. But arbitrations take time, and hiring attorneys could be expensive—maybe too expensive when you’re just looking to collect a small amount for an employer.

What does this mean for employees?

Employees won’t be able to bring their claims in court, or as a class action—which a lot of these wage-and-hour cases are. The damages are typically not enough to bring an individual lawsuit, so, often, your only relief was through a class action.

“The effect is that you’re left without a remedy for wage-and-hour claims, and other claims, that would be brought up in a class action,” says Hoipkemier. “In a nutshell, people are basically out of luck.”

Employees need to be mindful of the small print, and try to negotiate where they can; anything can be negotiable. “Folks need to be aware up front of the fact that employers are including these things in their contracts, and to try to get them to negotiate it out,” says Hoipkemier

If contracts don’t have these clauses, and you’re experiencing wage-and-hour losses, you should reach out to a reputable and experienced class action lawyer. If and/or when you are presented with an employment contract, it’s always best to have a reputable and experienced attorney review it for you.

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