The recession resulted in nine million Americans getting pink slips from their employers, with the workers who remained often forced to pick up the slack by putting in longer hours for the same pay.

Now some of those employees have filed suit demanding overtime wages to which they say they were entitled but never received.

Compared to 2008, the number of such lawsuits has risen by 32 percent, and they list grievances such as working more than 40 hours per week, being forced to work off the clock, having work bleed into personal time via smartphones and other technology, and even having their jobs misclassified as being exempt from overtime requirements.

“The recession (put) more pressure on businesses to squeeze workers and cut costs,” says Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, adding that if employers had been forced to pay overtime, they likely would’ve hired more workers as the economy recovered.

But some companies say the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that mandates overtime pay has become antiquated in an age when most employees want the flexibility to work at home or answer office email during their free time. “The law has not kept pace with the contemporary workplace,” says Randy MacDonald, IBM’s head of human resources.

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