What happens when a person finds out that, not only have they have been unfairly discriminated against in the work place, but that their employer has been systematically discriminating against a certain class of people? Or, what happens if an employer has been illegally failing to pay what they owe to a large group of employees? In cases where the employer’s wrong doing is not focused on one person, but has instead impacted a large group of people, it might be time for the wronged employees to consider an employee class action lawsuit. Continue reading to learn more about this unique type of legal action.
What is a class action lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit involves a group of individuals representing a larger class of individuals in a lawsuit against the same defendant or defendants. This means that a large number of plaintiffs exists, and only a sub set of them will actually be named in the lawsuit.
There are several requirements that must be met in order to proceed with a class action lawsuit. According to the relevant statute (FRCP, Rule 23):
- “the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable”
This means that the amount of plaintiffs would be unreasonably numerous if they were to be listed as joined plaintiffs in a non-class action lawsuit. The statute does not give specific numbers, but it is likely that less than twenty plaintiffs would not be seen as necessitating a class action lawsuit, while something greater than fifty probably would be accepted.
- “there are questions of the law or fact common to the class”
This means that the group, or “class” of aggrieved individuals have suffered similar, or identical offenses, and therefore the facts that concern them are alike.
- “the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class”
This refers to the smaller group of plaintiffs chosen to represent the entire class. As mentioned above, not all of the plaintiffs in the class will be included in the class action lawsuit, but rather a representative group serves to stand in for everyone. It makes sense then that these individuals are an adequate proxy, based on their claims and the related facts, for the larger group.
- “the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class”
In other words, the selected individuals cannot act out of self-interest at the expense of the members of the larger class.
When would employees of a company use a class action lawsuit?
Work place based class action lawsuits make sense when an employer has systematically broken an employment law in regards to a large group of employees. This can be the case in situations such as a general refusal to pay for overtime work. If the refusal to pay overtime wages violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), then the company is legally liable to the wronged employees. The same situation might apply to cases where the employer violated the minimum wage, or violated a state law mandating that employees must be given breaks after working a certain number of hours. These sorts of claims can involve a very large number of plaintiffs, but the facts and law related for each individual are highly similar. Additionally, the relief for each plaintiff is similar as well, mostly including back pay, and an injunction preventing the company from taking these actions in the future.
Employee class actions can also apply to discrimination cases. One example is the class action suit filed against Microsoft for gender discrimination. In that case, female employees in technical roles at Microsoft allege that they have been systematically discriminated against, unfairly receiving less pay, less frequent promotions, and more negative performance evaluations. Cases like this present additional complications however, when compared to violations of employment practices relating to overtime or minimum wages because the plaintiffs involved might have greater factual differences, and might have suffered in various ways and to varying degrees as a result of the alleged discrimination.
What are the benefits of a class action lawsuit?
Class action lawsuits can be beneficial for economic reasons. If an employee lost money as a result of a violation of the FLSA, it might not be economically sensible to file an individual claim. But if one hundred employees have been impacted, they can split the burden of the litigation costs. Likewise, class action lawsuits allow for strength in numbers, helping employees face large corporations together rather than alone.
If you believe your employer has violated the rights of an entire group of employees, contact an attorney to address your concerns.
Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation
At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you to find the best solution to your employment law related legal issues. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with one of our experienced employment attorneys.