Class Action Employment Lawsuits under California Law
When most people think of a California employment lawsuit, they picture an employee who was wrongfully terminated based on their sex, gender, race, age or disability. While many employment claims are filed by a single employee based on an employer’s allegedly illegal actions, this is not the only way to bring a claim against an employer.
A class action lawsuit is a claim brought by multiple employees, all of whom suffered a similar type of harm. Class action lawsuits offer several benefits when compared to bringing individual cases against an employer. For example, just one or two employees can represent the entire workforce. Sometimes workers do not want to sue their current employer for fear of retaliation. However, if no one is willing to step up, then the employer will keep on getting away with its illegal practices. In a class action all the employees can band together – or they can find just one or employees to take the lead. It can even be someone who is no longer with the company, as long as they suffered the same treatment in a recent period.
Another benefit of a class action lawsuit is that workers who are owed a few thousand dollars or less can get a top California employment lawyer to take their case on “no-pay-until-you-win” basis. While several thousand dollars is a lot of money to most people, the cost of filing the case and other legal expenses may be more than the amount owed. By bundling the claims of dozens or more employees, the total claim is much larger than any expenses.
Of course, not every employment dispute is appropriate for a class action lawsuit. Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, the court must first certify the class. In order to do this, there must be at least a few dozen employees, who all suffered the same type of harm by their employer, within the period allowed by the relevant law—for example, usually up to four years for wage or meal and rest break violations.
Taking the above into account, most California employment class action lawsuits involve the following allegations:
Wage and Hour Violations:
Common types of wage and hour claims involve:
- Overtime violations
- Unpaid commissions
- Unpaid expenses
- Denying employees meal or rest breaks
- Delayed payment of wages
- Failure to provide accurate wage statements
- Failure to pay all due wages timely upon termination
- Any other violation of California or federal wage laws.
Misclassification of Workers:
Employers will often try to save money by classifying workers as independent contractors, or as exempt employees (i.e., not eligible for overtime and breaks). Independent contractors are not technically employees, do not receive overtime pay, and employers are not responsible for providing benefits or paying employment taxes. Exempt employees are those who are not eligible for overtime pay. An employer may misclassify workers as exempt to save overtime. Even if you have a title like “manager,” if you spend more than half your time doing the duties of a regular hourly employee, you are likely misclassified and owed overtime. Even some very well-paid jobs like inside salespeople, tech support and certain other IT people may actually be owed overtime under California law.
While many instances of employment discrimination involve a single employee being fired for an impermissible reason, sometimes, an employer’s policies or practices result in broad discrimination against dozens of employees. Two of the most common types of discrimination-based class action lawsuits are disparate treatment claims (disparate = “different”), and disparate impact claims. An example of a disparate treatment claim would be if promotions are overwhelmingly given to men. A disparate impact claim is based on a policy that has an unfair impact on a certain group of employees. For example, if an employer lays off long-term, higher-paid employees it could result in mostly older employees being fired, which might be age discrimination. Because these claims often involve a large group of employees, they are often brought as class action lawsuits.
Is Your Employer Engaging in Unfair Labor Practices?
If you believe that your employer’s policies or practices violate state or federal labor laws, reach out to the McCormack Law Firm for immediate assistance. We handle class actions and individual cases as well. We represent workers in San Francisco and throughout California in all types of employment discrimination, harassment, wage and hour, and wrongful termination claims. For the past 20 years, we have been providing top-notch representation to clients across the Bay Area and look forward to seeing how we can help you. To learn more, contact us at 415-925-5161. You can also connect with us through our online form.
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