Give the Data a Chance: Identifying and Interpreting Behavioral Patterns in Wage and Hour Disputes

Tue May 06 16:24:38 EDT 2014
By Dr. Alex Grecu

Employers often worry that, by increasing the amount of data they track about employees' activities, they also increase the risk that these same data may be used against them in wage and hour litigation. There is a statistical basis for this concern, as large data sets can increase the chances that relationships measured within these datasets will register as statistically significant, even when those relationships are spurious. That is to say, should an employer decide to collect data metrics regarding its employees' activities with an increased frequency/accuracy or expand the scope and detail of the gathered data to include details previously not collected, the employer increases the chances that, in the event of a dispute, the experts analyzing the data will find a significant statistical relationship where none existed with the more limited data available before. However, in this new NERA paper, Vice President Dr. Alex Grecu points out that what employers may not realize is that access to this more detailed data may be very beneficial in demonstrating that individualized circumstances and behaviors prevent class certification -- in defending against meritless allegations, in winnowing down classes that are overly broad, and, where necessary, in generating a more accurate estimate of any damages. In fact, Dr. Grecu argues, these benefits can be reaped efficiently, since an analysis made possible by the availability of extended data could be used during all stages of a wage and hours dispute, from class certification and addressing the liability through estimation of damages if needed.