A class action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit in which one of the parties is involved is a group of people, as opposed to a single person. This group of people is represented by a member of that group. In a class action, everyone is required to share similar legal issues, and there must be enough people that individual suits would not make sense.
An example of this is a group of affected people suing a pharmaceutical company. Class actions proceed quicker than a trial for each individual suit, but it does take longer than a typical lawsuit because there are so many people and factors involved.
An employment class action lawsuit is a lawsuit against an employer who has violated workplace discrimination laws, or other employment laws. Generally, this is a lawsuit that involves a large number of workers who have experienced the same type of legal issues. Once again, the number of affected should be great enough that it would not make sense to file individual suits against the employer.
Employment class action lawsuits not only help the victims receive justice; they also discourage future violations on the part of the employer. For example, if a group of employees has been affected by a wage violation, they may file an employment class action lawsuit in order to receive legal relief for the violation. This process can save the plaintiffs time and money.
What are Some Common Employment Class Action Claims and Requirements?
Some employment law violations result in class action claims more often than others. Some of the more common claims include:
- Discrimination: workplace discrimination is a serious matter. Discrimination occurs when a person is not hired or is treated differently based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, and religion. Federal and state laws state that discrimination is based on a person’s “protected class”;
- Harassment: workplace harassment comes in many forms. Demanding sexual favors in exchange for job placement or retention, unwelcome advances, threats of violence, and inappropriate behavior are all grounds for a lawsuit;
- Wage and Hour Disputes: this mainly involves overtime and minimum wage disputes. However, anything that violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) could qualify as means for a lawsuit;
- Immigration Issues: hiring undocumented workers is subject to severe civil and criminal penalties, because these employers are exceptionally vulnerable to being abused and taken advantage of because of their status; or
- Other Causes: breaches of employment handbook policies and various white collar crimes, such as fraud, are other common employment class action claims.
Sometimes, the claim may be preceded by an investigation from a government agency, such as the EEOC for discrimination claims, or the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) for claims relating to those subjects. These investigations are helpful in determining whether legal action will be necessary, and they may help uncover further violations that will support the lawsuit.
In order to file a legal claim, the claim must negatively impact an entire group of people; an issue impacting just one person does not constitute a class action suit. Again, the number of affected people should be so great that it would be impractical to file individual suits.
There is not a minimum number requirement, but larger groups have a better chance of being approved. A good general rule of thumb is forty or more affected people.
What Types of Remedies are Available in an Employment Class Action Lawsuit?
More often than not, an employment class action lawsuit will result in monetary awards. These are intended to compensate those affected for losses caused by the violation, such as owed overtime wages. Or, if the plaintiffs have been wrongfully denied their legal wages, they may be entitled to back wages.
However, it is important to note that courts typically do not dispense compensatory and punitive damages due to the nature of a group suit. If there needs to be determinations of individual amounts owed to individual people, the court will probably not certify the class.
Most actions will only seek back pay, interest, and injunctive relief. And, the larger the class involved, the less each person will receive. The damages must be split between all members of the class.
In some cases, a non monetary remedy may be more appropriate. Some of these remedies include:
- Changes in employer practices;
- Employment policies being rewritten to correct the infraction(s); or
- Necessary changes in management.
Some employment class action lawsuits may also involve mediation, or other alternative dispute resolution measures.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help with an Employment Class Action Lawsuit?
Employment class action lawsuits are complicated due to having so many people and issues involved. These cases often involve a number of legal issues and employment laws that you may not be aware of. A knowledgeable and experienced employment attorney can provide you with direction, options, and representation during any court appearances.