Under California and federal law, a small group of employees may pursue a class action on behalf of a larger group of employees with common or similar claims. Class actions can be filed against employers for various violations of the law if common questions of law and fact predominate. Cases often litigated as class actions are those with claims for overtime pay, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, discrimination, or other claims.
It is advantageous for employees to file claims collectively as class actions for a variety of reasons. When a case is litigated as a class action, all qualified employees, no matter what the size of their claims, can be eligible take part in the verdict or settlement. In an overtime case, employees with claims for only two weeks of unpaid overtime can participate, as can employees with claims for unpaid wages for the past four years. Although it can be difficult for employees with smaller claims to purse them individually, employees are often more successful when filing those claims as a class action. In addition, when a claim is pursued as a class action, the case often influences the employer to change its policies in the future, such as allowing employees to take meal and rest periods, paying employees for overtime hours worked, or not requiring employees to work as may overtime hours.
A variety of different circumstances can give rise to cases that are appropriate class actions. For example, a group of employees with the same job may all work different schedules, but none of them get paid overtime for hours worked over eight in a day. All of the employees could be paid on a salary basis but, depending on their job duties, they may be entitled to overtime compensation despite the fact they work different amounts of overtime, and be entitled to different amounts of overtime pay.
Employees with different job titles may not have the opportunity to take meal or rest periods, or may even be discouraged from doing so. Even though the employees do not work in the same jobs, depending on their job duties, they could potentially pursue a class action together and may all be entitled to one hour of penalty pay for each day their employer denies them a meal and rest period.
Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani has successfully represented hundreds of employees in class action cases against their employers including:
- Conley v. PG&E was a class action for unpaid overtime for over 700 employees in three different jobs. All of the employees were paid on a salary basis, but because of their job duties, they should have been paid overtime for hours worked over eight in a day and over 40 in a week. After years of hard fought litigation by Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani attorneys, PG&E agreed to pay $17,250,000 to settle the case. The company also agreed to pay the majority of the covered employees overtime compensation in the future. While some employers in overtime cases reduce employees’ base pay when converting them from salaried to hourly after a settlement, the settlement in this case prohibited PG&E from doing so.
- Grosvenor v. Steelscape was a class action brought by employees who worked on a production line for 12 hour shifts, yet were not permitted to take any meal or rest periods. Employees were reprimanded or terminated for taking breaks. Shortly after filing the case, Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani negotiated a settlement on behalf of the employees that required the company to pay each employee $40.00 per day for every day worked during the class period, to compensate for missed meal and rest periods. In addition, the company agreed to pay Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani’s attorneys’ fees separately, thus the employees did not have any fees deducted from their settlements.
- In Abel v. BART Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani represented a group of employees in an overtime case involving over 15 different jobs ranging from train controllers to senior operations supervisors. Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani obtained a multimillion dollar pay-out to compensate the employees for back pay, and rulings that required BART to pay the majority of the affected employees overtime compensation in the future.
If you believe Siegel, LeWitter & Malkani could assist you with possible class action claims, please contact the firm.