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Encouraging Enforcement of Maryland's Wage Laws

February 14, 2011: A legal right means little if it cannot be enforced. Despite the alarming prevalence of wage theft among low-wage workers, government enforcement of wage and hour laws remains poor or virtually nonexistent. Because of this, workers must turn to private attorneys to enforce their rights under Maryland’s Wage Payment and Collection Law and Wage and Hour Law. Yet if courts do not award attorneys the reasonable compensation for successful claims to which they are entitled under these laws, workers will have great difficulty obtaining legal representation to vindicate their rights. To encourage private enforcement of Maryland’s wage laws, the Public Justice Center, along with Casa de Maryland, D.C. Employment Justice Center, Metropolitan Washington Lawyers Association, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, ACLU of Maryland, and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on February 14 in Friolo v. Frankel.

The brief argued that the ability of low-wage workers to enforce their rights depends critically upon the reasonable compensation of attorneys who bring meritorious wage claims on their behalf. Expanding upon the PJC’s two previous briefs in the case, the brief also addressed the circuit court judge’s complaints about the lodestar method by providing a clear roadmap for calculating attorneys’ fees through the lodestar method and demonstrating how proper application should be straightforward and not unduly burdensome for trial court judges. The PJC’s first two briefs contributed to Court of Appeals rulings adopting the lodestar method for calculating attorneys’ fees under fee-shifting statutes (reasonable hourly rate multiplied by reasonable number of hours) and holding that an attorney must be remunerated for successful efforts on appeal.

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