Here’s a caution for employers tempted to ignore a wage-and-hour lawsuit: Do so and you might as well just admit to the employees’ allegations. All the court has to do is determine the damages—plus figure out how much in legal fees the employer owes the employees.
Recent case: When several construction workers sued McStrong Contracting over allegedly unpaid overtime, the company ignored the whole thing. It never bothered hiring an attorney or answering the complaint.
That inaction made the judge’s job easy—and ensured a win for the former employees. The court entered a default judgment.
Then it calculated the overtime pay the employees were owed, based on the affidavits they had attached to their complaint.
Finally, the judge doubled the requested amount and told their attorney to come back with a legal bill.
The overtime tab for the four employees was almost $20,000. The legal fees the employer owes will be something similar, if not more. (Lopez, et al., v. McStrong Contracting, No: 5:11-CV-00567, ED NC, 2012)
Advice: Don’t let carelessness land you in legal hot water. Establish a policy for responding to lawsuits as soon as they arrive. Provide training on handling legal documents to everyone who might receive such paperwork. Include directions to forward the paperwork immediately to a specific individual, preferably in HR. Ensure that you log the case—and then contact your attorney ASAP.