If you’re like most people, you’ve heard of class action lawsuits – maybe you’ve even seen television commercials and ads on your Facebook news feed about signing up to participate in one.
But what is this type of lawsuit, and how does it work? How many people have to participate in one, and what happens when you win?
This guide explains:
- What a class action lawsuit is
- Requirements for class action in employment
- How many people you need for an employment class action lawsuit
- The ways these suits are different from individual employment cases
- What damages are in this type of suit
- How people get money from these lawsuits
- How this kind of lawsuit actually works, and what stages it goes through
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit that a group of people files against a defendant. These types of lawsuits are designed for situations that have multiple victims with similar outcomes. For example, people sometimes file class action lawsuits against drug manufacturers that make dangerous medications.
They aren’t just for cases like those, though. Many people file class action lawsuits against employers, too. An employment class action lawsuit is one lawsuit filed by multiple plaintiffs (the people who are making the claim) against a single employer.
Requirements for Class Action in Employment
In order to file a class action lawsuit, you need multiple plaintiffs who have identical claims against the same employer. The claim can’t be unique to just one person – it has to negatively impact a whole group of people.
When a judge has to decide whether to allow the suit to proceed, he or she must look at:
- Whether the people filing the suit have suffered the same injuries
- The class can be defined clearly enough to figure out who is – and who isn’t – a member
- The number of class members involved makes this type of lawsuit more practical
- There are a common set of facts related to all of the members
- The people who qualify have such similar issues that it’s okay if not all the members are present in the courtroom
How Many People Do You Need for a Class Action Lawsuit?
There isn’t really a minimum number of people required to qualify for an employment lawsuit. If fewer than about 40 people are qualified to participate, it’s a pretty small suit. It can be tough to get a suit this small approved.
A person is qualified to participate if he or she experienced the same issue as the rest of the people in the group.
The idea behind this is that there must be a number of people involved. You need so many that it would be impractical to fill up the courthouse with the same case over and over again – just with different plaintiffs.
How Are These Lawsuits Different From Individual Employment Cases?
Class action lawsuits have multiple plaintiffs and typically one defendant (particularly when we’re talking about those related to employment). Often, class action suits are for instances in which multiple people have similar claims.
An individual employment case only addresses the claims of one employee. If you work for a relatively small company and what happened to you didn’t happen to anyone else, or if it only happened to a few other people, you’ll probably need to file an individual employment lawsuit.
Damages in Class Action Lawsuits
The group of people who file a suit like this are seeking damages. The term damages refers to compensation.
In an employment lawsuit with multiple plaintiffs, there may be many workers claiming that the employer owes them overtime wages. These types of lawsuits occur pretty frequently, such as when Walmart had to go to court over pregnancy bias, and when workers from Amazon shipping facilities banded together to fight against the retail giant’s failure to pay them overtime wages.
How Do People Get Money From a Class Action Employment Lawsuit?
When the courts rule in employees’ favor in these types of lawsuits, the company – which is the defendant – must pay the whole group a certain amount of money. The court determines how to divide the money between the plaintiffs.
The Lawsuit Process
Most employment-related class action lawsuits follow the exact same path. Typically:
- An attorney will file the case
- The attorney will serve paperwork to the defendant – in this case, the company – and wait for a response
- The defendant will file a response, and it may also file a motion to ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit
- The court will decide whether to allow the case to proceed
- Both sides go into discovery, which means both sides’ attorneys start on a fact-finding mission
- The original attorney will file a motion with the court to ask the judge to certify the case as a class action lawsuit
- The defendant can respond to challenge the validity of the case
- The judge decides whether or not to certify the case as a class action lawsuit
- If the judge agrees that class action is the way to go, the case will proceed
Do You Think You Have a Class Action Lawsuit?
If you think you may have grounds for an employment lawsuit that could qualify as class action, we may be able to help you. Call us right away at 818-230-8380 to discuss your situation with an attorney during a free consultation.