Workers in Maryland and throughout the country are unlawfully denied earned wages at alarming rates. Although Maryland’s Wage and Hour Law (WHL) and Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL) provide remedies for victims of wage theft, the effectiveness of these laws depends on how well they are enforced. Unfortunately, governmental enforcement of wage and hour laws on both the state and federal level has ranged from weak to non-existent in recent years. Employees must therefore turn to private attorneys to vindicate their rights to receive fair wages for their work.
Private attorneys are able to litigate these cases only if they can rely on being compensated reasonably for meritorious claims. Such reasonable compensation was contemplated by the General Assembly when it enacted the fee-shifting provisions included within the WHL and WPCL. According to this Court, attorneys should be remunerated under the wage laws’ fee-shifting provisions through proper application of the lodestar method.
In this case, the Court of Special Appeals devised an unprecedented approach to attorneys’ fees that deviates radically from this Court’s approved lodestar method and eliminates any reasonable certainty that attorneys will be adequately compensated for bringing successful claims. Under the approach applied below, attorneys will be discouraged from representing low-wage workers, the WHL and WPCL will go unenforced, and workers will be without protection from the widespread practice of wage theft. The approach employed below will also cripple enforcement of other remedial legislation by undermining attendant fee-shifting provisions.