Recent years have seen a rise in the number of lawsuits brought by employees against cities, counties and other public entities under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These actions, which are brought as “collective actions” specifically authorized by the FLSA, can impose substantial liability on public employers. Legal periodicals regularly report on private-sector wage-and-hour settlements and verdicts well into the tens of millions of dollars, sometimes over a hundred million.

The FLSA applies to public-sector employers just as it does to those in the private sector, and presents the same magnitude of exposure. This article will describe the dangers of FLSA collective actions (why an organization’s liability can be so substantial), and how public employers can take steps to avoid such lawsuits.