Individual employees who have suffered wage loss due to the wrongful acts of their employers are often pitted in a David versus Goliath type of struggle. Class actions and collective actions can help level the playing field, and the Illinois class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center can help.
Class actions serve an important purpose in our society, and are particularly important in the context of wage and hour disputes. Class actions generally allow for employees of the same employer who have similar claims to join those claims together in a class action. Employment decisions made by employers often affect broad groups of employees in the same way, and it is more efficient for the courts – and for the parties – to determine whether company policies violate the law for all employees at once, instead of in many individual lawsuits. Class actions also allow for relatively small claims that may be too costly for one individual to pursue to be brought on a class-wide basis, so that an entire group of employees may obtain justice.
Class actions can be pursued in Illinois state courts and, in some cases, in federal courts. In a class action, one or more individual plaintiffs bring the suit as a representative for the class of similarly situated workers. In order for the court to certify a case as a class action, certain requirements must be met. Common questions of law or fact must predominate in the proposed class. The proposed class representatives must have claims that are typical of the class members, and must be committed to the litigation and willing to adequately represent the proposed class. In addition, the class must be so numerous that a class action will be an efficient way to handle the claims, and the class must be manageable and not too unwieldy for the court to oversee.
Employers do not like the leverage that class actions can give employees, and have begun inserting provisions in employment contracts requiring that employees agree to arbitrate their claims instead of pursing the claims in court, and requiring that employees agree to waive their rights to pursue claims on a class basis, either in the courts or in arbitration. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has generally upheld these arbitration provisions, sometimes resulting in an inability to pursue employment disputes on a class basis. Whether any class action ban in your employment contract is valid depends upon an analysis of your specific case.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs many wage and hour laws in Illinois, provides for collective actions instead of class actions. A collective action is similar to a class action, but has several noteworthy distinctions. In a class action, all employees in the class are considered members of the class unless they take action to “opt out” of the class. In a collective action, on the other hand, employees in the class must take action to “opt in” and join the class. To certify a FLSA collective action does not require that all of the class action requirements be met, but only that the class representative is “similarly situated” to the class members.
If you are considering pursuing your employment dispute as a class action, it is essential to consult with experienced Illinois class action attorneys. The attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have deep experience in a variety of class actions and collective actions. We can help determine whether your claims may be pursued on a class-wide basis, and represent you in all stages of a class or collective action. Contact us today at (312) 869-4095 for a free confidential consultation.