Any employer who wondered what effect the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes gender discrimination case would have on private class action cases needn’t look any further than the top 10 employment discrimination class action settlements of 2012. At roughly $49 million in settlements, that total came in at the lowest level since 2006 and was far shy of the pre-Dukes total of $346 million in 2010.

“That’s a pretty dramatic difference,” says Gerald Maatman Jr., who co-chairs the class action litigation group at Seyfarth Shaw and co-authored the 800-plus page “Annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report,” which the firm published January 14.

Following the 2011 Dukes decision, Maatman says that employers are changing their approach to resolving workplace class actions. “When I’m defending these big cases, the approach now at the mediation table or the settlement table is: ‘Mr. Plaintiffs lawyer, if you thought your case was worth a dollar prior to [Dukes], we think it’s worth a dime now.’ ”

This latest edition of the workplace litigation report offers a circuit-by-circuit and state-by-state review of significant class action rulings rendered in 2012. It analyzes the most significant class and collective action settlements over the past 12 months and offers insights into what’s ahead in 2013.

As influential as the Dukes decision was, Maatman says the plaintiffs class action bar is hardly standing still. “We saw a lot of new sorts of theories and approaches being utilized to try to work around Dukes,” he says.  And although their opponents on the management side tried to extend the ruling to the wage-and-hour context, Maatman says that by and large, judges declined to buy into their argument.

The report cites six key trends in its overview of workplace class action developments last year:

1. The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion altered the course of class actions and litigation.

Both cases were widely cited throughout the lower courts last year. Concepcion fed significant litigation over workplace arbitration agreements. In those cases, like with real estate, says Maatman, “location, location, location is everything.” He says, “There are cases going both ways and judges going both ways, even within the same jurisdiction,” adding that “the final chapter hasn’t been written.”

2. Government enforcement litigation reached new “white-hot” levels in 2012.

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