Lawsuits alleging unlawful treatment of employees by their employers often involve groups of employees who have been subjected to the same practice. These are known as both class-actions and collective actions. In these cases, there are typically one or more class representatives who have filed the suits and who identify groups of people who have the same claims for damages.
One of the requirements for a class or collective action to move forward through the process is that the presiding court must “certify the class.” Class certification is a determination that all the prospective class members share the same questions of law or fact to be determined at trial. This determination is regularly challenged by defendants, and court decisions are often appealed to higher courts.
- Whether class certification is appropriate when there are differences among the individual class members, and liability/damages would be statistically calculated on the premise that all class members are the same as the average member used in the statistical sample; and
- Whether class certification is appropriate when the proposed class has hundreds of members who have no right to damages because they suffered no injury from the alleged employer actions.
In the Tyson case, employees had filed the suit alleging violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employees alleged that Tyson wrongfully refused to pay them for time spent changing into and out of protective equipment; commonly known as “donning” and “doffing.” The federal district court certified the class over Tyson’s objections and ultimately entered a judgment for almost $5.8 million damages for the class members.
The Court’s decision could have a significant effect on collective actions brought under the FLSA. Employees may find it harder to band together to challenge unlawful pay practices. Contact us today to speak with an experienced wage and hour lawyer in California.
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