While class actions are a useful tool for plaintiffs bringing small claims against a large corporation, there are specific requirements which a group of plaintiffs must meet in order to attain class certification. If the court is not convinced that the plaintiffs meet all of the necessary requirements, the court will deny certification and the lawsuit will not be able to proceed.
In a recent wage and hour lawsuit against Joe’s Crab Shack, courts disagreed over whether a key component of a class action had been fulfilled: that the named plaintiff must be able to fairly and adequately represent the class. The Superior Court of Los Angeles determined that the named plaintiff, Roberto Martinez, was unable to act as “an adequate class representative”. Martinez then got three more plaintiffs to join the lawsuit and they filed another motion for class certification. The Superior Court of Los Angeles again denied class certification and the plaintiffs appealed.
The lawsuit alleges that all managerial employees of the restaurant chain were required to work at least 50 hours per week. They allegedly worked 55 hours a week on a regular basis and some claim that they worked as many as 70 hours per week. Because these employees were labeled as managers, they were paid a salary and refused overtime. However, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires more than just a job title in order to deny an employee the proper overtime compensation. Instead, the Act has specific descriptions of the type of duties an employee must perform in order to qualify for overtime exemption. An employee who spends the majority of her time performing the same duties as an hourly employee is entitled to the proper overtime compensation for each hour that she works in excess of eight hours a day or forty hours a week, regardless of her job title.
According to the wage and hour lawsuit, the assistant managers working at all Joe’s Crab Shack locations were expected to fill in wherever they were needed. This included performing the work of “cooks, servers, bussers, hosts, stockers, bartenders or kitchen staff”. They were also expected to conduct inventory once a week after the restaurant had closed. The lawsuit alleges that the managers spent between 50% and 95% of their time performing the same tasks as hourly employees.
The appellate court found that, although the managers varied in the amount of time they spent on non-managerial duties, the assertion that the managers spent most of their time in non-managerial tasks was the main issue at hand. The appellate court found that the lower court, in deciding not to certify the class, had relied too heavily on the testimony of general managers at Joe’s Crab Shack, who were arguing against the litigation. The appellate court noted that “A general manager is hardly likely to share the duties of assistant managers, many of whom worked exclusively as kitchen- or front-managers.”
The appellate court therefore agreed to certify the class, overturning the ruling of the Superior Court of Los Angeles.
The Chicago class action lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims by waiters and bus boys and other restaurant and hotel workers against national restaurant chains including Chipotle, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steak House, Taco Bell, Burger King, Wendy’s and hotels for misclassifying employees as managers or assistant managers, forcing employees to work off the clock at business, failing to share all tips, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim these wage theft practices call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.
The Chicago class action attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Aurora and St. Charles. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Rosemont and Des Plaines overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.