Oakland Class Action Attorneys
Helping groups of employees hold employers accountable for their illegal practices.
Class action lawsuits embody the phrase “strength in numbers.” California law allows several people to take legal action against an employer on behalf of a larger group of employees with common or similar complaints of employment violations. One or more claimants, known as the lead plaintiffs, represent the interests of the entire group.
Class action lawsuits are a powerful way for employees to stand up for their rights in the workplace by joining together as a team. Along with obtaining fair compensation for everyone affected, they can get an employer to put an end to their unlawful policies. Class action claims can be filed for many different types of wrongdoing including worker misclassification, wage theft, unpaid overtime, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, discrimination and other employment issues.
Not all claims qualify for class action status. Erlich Law Firm will evaluate your situation and help you determine whether filing a class action lawsuit makes sense for you. Our experienced Oakland employment lawyers are ready to take on powerful employers to recover the damages you and other employees deserve. We will guide you through the entire legal process of a class action claim and ensure you thoroughly understand your responsibilities as lead plaintiff.
How does a class action lawsuit work?
A class action involves a lead plaintiff filing a claim on behalf of a larger group of employees to obtain justice for everyone affected by the employer’s wrongful practices. A class must be certified in court before it can proceed. There is no minimum number for how many employees must be affected by an illegal employment policy in order to have a class action. Some classes can be made up of hundreds, even thousands, of employees. The settlement is split among all the class members.
Types of class action lawsuits
There are many different employment law violations that can lead to class action lawsuits. Workers who suffer the same or similar wrongdoing can join forces to take legal action. Here are some examples of common concerns that may qualify for a class action:
• Wage and Hour: Employers are required to pay employees all the wages they are owed, including the applicable minimum wage and overtime pay for extra hours worked. Other wage-related claims can arise from unpaid commissions, missing expense reimbursements, illegal wage deductions or lack of itemized wage statements with each paycheck.
• Breaks: Full-time hourly employees are entitled to 10-minute rest breaks and 30-minute meal breaks. Sometimes employers force employees to work through breaks for no pay. If you and your coworkers are not getting all of your breaks or not being paid for off-the-clock work, you may have a claim.
• Misclassification: Employers often misclassify entire departments of workers. Incorrectly classifying employees as independent contractors or hourly workers is a common tactic companies use to avoid paying overtime, benefits and owed wages.
• Discrimination: An employer may engage in systematic discrimination through company policies. Discriminatory action can result in the unfair treatment of certain groups of employees. For example, female workers may suffer pay disparities in comparison to their male counterparts due to gender discrimination.
Wage and hour class actions remain a top concern for employers
According to a 2019 survey, labor and employment lawsuits are the most common type of class actions. Nearly 29 percent of all class actions are employment cases. In the past five years, around two-thirds of businesses have dealt with at least one employment class action, with wage and hour violations being the top concern. More than 25 percent of companies were involved in an employment class action lawsuit in 2018 alone.
The total settlement amount for wage and hour class action lawsuits almost doubled from $253 million in 2018 to $449 million in 2019. The year 2019 also saw a record-breaking number of plaintiffs getting class action certification in federal courts with rates of 81 percent for wage and hour lawsuits and 64 percent for employment discrimination cases.
What are the advantages to filing a class action?
A class action lawsuit allows wronged employees to file claims collectively as a team, which can mean higher chances of success in recovering damages. When there is substantial evidence against an employer, it creates leverage for plaintiffs to obtain a potentially large settlement or jury verdict. This type of lawsuit provides one settlement for all qualified employees, no matter the size of their claim.
When a large group of employees is affected by an employer’s wrongdoing, pursuing a class action can put an end to unlawful employment policies. Class actions are also efficient because they enable one judge to hear all the claims at the same time rather than dealing with multiple individual lawsuits. They can be an effective way to maximize compensation when taking separate legal action is too costly. Because class actions can be complicated, it is best to discuss your situation with a lawyer to determine whether to pursue a class action or a single-plaintiff lawsuit.
The difference between a class action lawsuit and an individual claim
An individual claim involves you filing a lawsuit against your employer to obtain compensation for yourself. In a class action, you or a small group of coworkers represent a much larger group of employees. Any settlement or award will be divided among all members of the class. Certifying the class is an extra step that needs to be taken in a class action.
Is it better to file an individual claim or a class action lawsuit?
The best course of action in your case depends on the facts of your situation. If the employment violations you have experienced are different from those of other employees, filing an individual lawsuit might make more sense than a class action. The employment law attorneys at Erlich Law Firm will clearly lay out your options so that you can make an informed decision about what type of legal action to take.
A class action lawsuit cannot proceed until it is certified by a judge. There are a number of factors a court must consider when deciding whether to certify a class:
• Number of plaintiffs: There must be enough plaintiffs that would make it impractical to have each person file a separate employment lawsuit.
• Protection of class interests: The named lead plaintiff must fairly and accurately represent the collective interests of the class members.
• Typical claims: The lead plaintiff is presenting claims of wrongdoing that are typical of those experienced by other employees in the class.
• Similar grievances: All employees seeking class membership were harmed in the same or a similar way.
The lead plaintiff’s role in a class action
An important duty the lead plaintiff has is to work closely with a chosen law firm to decide the direction the case will take, including determining the requirements for membership in the class. Lead plaintiffs may have to provide evidence, review documents and sit for depositions.
The lead plaintiff has to act on behalf of all the affected employees, not just in their own interests. This is especially important when reviewing any potential settlements that are negotiated. The lead plaintiff must decide whether they are fair and just for the entire class. Courts often reward lead plaintiffs with additional compensation for filing the action and taking on extra responsibilities in service of the class.
Starting a class action lawsuit against your employer
Call for a free case evaluation
If you and your coworkers have experienced widespread wrongdoing in the workplace, you have the right to recover damages and put a stop to your employer’s illegal practices. Only a knowledgeable employment lawyer will be able to answer all your questions and advise you on whether you are eligible to file a class action lawsuit against your employer. Contact Erlich Law Firm today to get started.