Peter Shapiro Quoted by SHRM in Article on Scrutiny for Wage Theft Under New Administration

New York, N.Y. (February 23, 2021) - New York Partner Peter T. Shapiro was recently quoted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for its article, “New Administration and Pandemic Put Focus on Wage Theft,” which discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic and the new administration may boost employees’ claims for wage theft.

The article explains that although workers have historically sued employers for shortchanging their paychecks in both good and bad economic times, scrutiny for wage theft will likely increase against the backdrop of the labor-friendly mindset of Congress and the pandemic. Noting that the U.S. Department of Labor will likely become more proactive in protecting employees, Mr. Shapiro described, “You may see changes in the rulings – who is exempt and who is not. There is a lot of wiggle room in who fits into the two main categories...”

In discussing employees who have sued over their exempt classifications, Mr. Shapiro provided an example involving assistant managers in the retail and fast-food industries. He explained, “The claim is that their daily duties are predominantly customer-facing,” adding “They are manning the counter, filling the orders, helping to clean the restrooms, basically filling in doing whatever needs to be done.” If these employees spend more time on these duties as opposed to making managerial decisions, they may be in a position to win a settlement or lawsuit for unpaid overtime.

Moreover, Mr. Shapiro explained that even before President Biden was elected, he counseled clients to pay close attention to tracking hours and compensating fairly, particularly in New York state, which has stringent wage laws. “Be extremely vigilant about having good policies in place and making sure they are enforced,” he advised.

In looking ahead and considering the pandemic’s effects on wage claims, Mr. Shapiro warned that employees may be waiting until the economy improves and they have more job security to file their claims. "They might be saving that claim for a rainy day," he said.

Mr. Shapiro is the Northeast Regional Vice-Chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Labor & Employment Practice and a member of its Professional Liability, Complex Business & Commercial Litigation, Appellate, and Directors & Officers Coverage and Litigation Practices. As a member of the firm’s COVID-19 Response Team, he has authored a number of alerts analyzing the novel labor and employment issues raised by the pandemic. Visit our COVID-19 Response Resource Center to find these alerts.

You can read the full SHRM article here.

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