Class actions are one of the most powerful ways that employees can assert their rights in the workplace. However, class actions are often complicated, lengthy, and expensive. In California, class actions are particularly favored in cases involving wage and hour claims. This is because wage and hour class actions allow many individuals to resolve their claims at the same time, while allowing small claimants to redress claims that otherwise might be too insignificant to warrant individual litigation.
In recent years, employers have developed a number of legal tools and theories to defeat class actions. For these reasons, it is important that you consult with an employment attorney who is experienced in this field.
The attorneys at Hunter Pyle Law have handled, and are currently handling, many class action lawsuits. We regularly make presentations to other attorneys about how best to approach class action litigation. We are available to consult with you to determine whether your claims might be appropriate for class status.
Class Action Lawsuits
Class actions involve one or more plaintiffs, called “Class Representatives”, who represent a larger group of people who have the same claims. To be adequate, a Class Representative must not have any interests that are antagonistic to the class and must be represented by counsel qualified to conduct the litigation on behalf of the class.
Normally, only the Class Representatives are named in a class action lawsuit. The class members are not officially part of the case until the court grants class certification. Then notice goes out to the class members informing them that they will be part of the case unless they inform the court that they do not want to be.
The rules in California courts regarding class actions are somewhat different from the rules in federal court. However, speaking generally, in order for a court to certify a class, the Class Representatives must prove that an ascertainable class exists. In other words, the court must be able to identify who is in the class. In employment class action cases, this is normally done through the employer’s records.
The Class Representatives must also prove that there is a well-defined community of interest. This requires an inquiry into numerosity, whether common questions of law or fact predominate, and whether the class representatives have claims or defenses typical of the class. Other relevant considerations include the probability that each class member will come forward ultimately to prove his or her separate claim to a portion of the total recovery and whether the class approach would actually serve to deter and redress alleged wrongdoing. It is Class Representatives’ burden to support each of the above factors with a factual showing.
With respect to numerosity, California Code of Civil Procedure section 382 does not define what constitutes the “many” persons required to maintain a class action. No set number is required. In general, though, you need more than 20 class members in order to satisfy the numerosity requirement.
The determination of how much commonality is enough to warrant use of the class mechanism requires a fact-specific evaluation of the claims, the common evidence, and the anticipated conduct of the trial. California courts consider statistical evidence, sample evidence, expert testimony, and other indicators of a defendant’s centralized practices in order to evaluate whether commonality exists.
What does all of this mean for employees and labor law in California? Multiple employees can file a class action lawsuit against their employers if their employers have acted unlawfully. Common class action lawsuits include claims based on the following:
- Overtime Laws in California: Employees in California must be paid time and half (1.5 x their regular rate of pay) for all time that they work past 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Employees must also be paid double time (2x their regular rate of pay) for all time after 12 hours in a day. Special rules apply to an employee’s seventh consecutive day of work within a workweek: The first 8 hours are paid at time and half and anything after that is paid at double time.
- Meal and Rest Breaks: Employees are entitled to breaks under California law. If employees work more than 5 hours in a day, their employer must provide them with a 30-minute meal break. That break must occur within the first 5 hours of the employees’ shifts. Employers must also authorize and permit employees to take a 10-minute paid break for after every 4 hours worked. Employers who fail to meet these requirements are liable to their employees for penalties at the rate of one hour of pay per day. However, there is a cap of one penalty per day for missed meal breaks and one penalty per day for missed rest breaks.
- Off-the-Clock Work: Off-the-clock work is work performed by an employee outside of his or her normal working hours that is not compensated. Under California law, an employer must pay for all time spent working that is either under the control of the employer or regarding which the employer knew or should have known. This includes work that has been performed both before and after the employees’ shifts.
Employment Lawyer in Oakland
Hunter Pyle Law, an employment law firm located in Oakland, CA, represents only employees, never employers, in class action lawsuits. Our experienced employment lawyers have successfully litigated individual and class action complaints throughout California. We are dedicated to protecting your rights at work. Contact us today if you have questions about whether your claims might be suitable for a class action lawsuit.