How to File a Wage and Hour Class Action Lawsuit
If you’ve been cheated out of wages by your employer, you may be eligible for compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These laws set the minimum wage and overtime pay. Non-exempt employees cannot work off the clock without compensation, so the law requires that they receive 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for overtime. However, if you’re not receiving your rightful compensation, you can still file a lawsuit.
In Wal-Mart v Dukes, plaintiffs sought certification of a Rule 23(b)(2) class of current female Wal-Mart employees. They also sought injunctive and declaratory relief against Wal-Mart in Region 43. Wal-Mart argues that Andrews bars class action claims. Dukes is not controlling, because plaintiffs filed suit in a timely manner. The question is whether Dukes prohibits class action claims under the doctrine of the APA.
The Supreme Court recently decided to reject a class-action lawsuit by female Wal-Mart employees. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, punitive damages, and backpay, claiming gender discrimination in pay and promotions. The lawsuit alleged that Wal-Mart had discriminated against women nationwide by requiring managers to make their own decisions regarding promotions and pay. The plaintiffs claimed that these practices led to lower pay and longer promotions for female employees.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Dukes case was not a class action, even though the majority of the court had remanded the case as a class action. However, the court did not remand the case because the plaintiffs had not demonstrated commonality of the defendants’ decisions. The court also noted that Dukes was not a class action, but a separate lawsuit brought by a single plaintiff, and thus, was not a class action.
In Dukes, the plaintiffs sought class certification in the Northern District of California. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the nationwide certification of the class, but the Supreme Court reversed this decision. The ruling in Dukes will not affect the class-action settlement in other cases involving Wal-Mart. Ultimately, the decision will affect how the company is run. While the court’s decision will affect the case, it will likely impact other cases filed by women against Wal-Mart.
If the Ninth Circuit affirmed the Sixth Circuit’s decision, plaintiffs may pursue further review of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling. They may also decide to proceed with a motion for class certification. In that case, the district court may resolve the issue on principles of stare decisis and comity. While there are some cases in support of tolling the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs’ case may not have been adequately represented in the earlier litigation.
This decision also highlights the importance of having a clear class certification process. Although Wal-Mart did not certify a class of former Wal-Mart employees, the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc decided to preserve their right to seek monetary relief under Rule 23(b)(3). The Ninth Circuit’s decision also clarifies that district courts may certify additional classes if necessary.
The Court’s decision in Wal-Mart seeks to reopen an issue regarding the requirements of Title VII’s venue. Wal-Mart argues that absent class members must satisfy these requirements, contrary to a previous line of cases that held that absent class members were irrelevant. The Court noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dukes prevents relitigation of this issue in the future.
Tyson Foods appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court
In its appeal, Tyson Foods pointed out that it had not been able to establish the exact amount of overtime or other compensation for its workers, and that this was not a reasonable assumption. However, the company also noted that it could not be held liable for the time it takes to dress and undress each employee. In any case, the ruling leaves a nagging question: can Tyson rely on statistical evidence to prove its claims?
The appeal relates to the time that Tyson employees spend donning and doffing protective gear while working. The plaintiffs argued that this time was an essential part of their work and deserved compensation. Tyson, however, refused to pay the plaintiffs for this time. Ultimately, the district court certified the class action as a collective action under the FLSA and Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiffs argued that Tyson had failed to pay overtime for the donning and doffing of protective gear. This decision has significant implications for the company’s future in the future.
Tyson Foods’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court aimed to reverse the $5.8 million overtime award in a wage and hour class action lawsuit, arguing that plaintiffs had not been allowed to use statistical evidence in establishing damages, and that the trial court applied a flawed method to determine damages. Using statistical evidence to calculate damages would have chilled the protection of worker rights in the U.S.
Whether Tyson’s appeal will stand depends on whether the plaintiffs’ arguments can withstand analysis. Currently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has upheld the lower court’s judgment, but a case appealed to the Supreme Court could be resolved in either way. Once the appeals are resolved, Tyson must address the method used to allocate the award.
In the past two years, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Tyson Foods and its workers. Tyson Foods filed amicus briefs in both cases. On one side, it sided with Wal-Mart Stores, a host of business associations, some conservative legal advocacy groups, and a group of law professors. The workers backed Tyson Foods’ case.
While the Tyson Foods case did set a sensible rule for evaluating the admissibility of statistical evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court failed to provide guidance for trial judges in how to manage statistical evidence. The Tyson Foods decision exemplifies how low courts have deviated from proper procedure in wage and hour lawsuits. Tyson Foods should appeal the case.
The Tyson decision could reignite debates over the appropriate use of statistical proof in wage and hour lawsuits. It may also limit the ruling to cases where the plaintiff’s class is using Mt. Clemens statistical proof. And the plaintiff’s class action bar may try to interpret the ruling as a reversal of Wal-Mart’s prohibition on wage and hour class actions.