Class certifications are an invaluable tool for plaintiffs with small claims to band together to gain leverage over defendants. A claim of a few hundred dollars or less is not worth the expense of filing a claim in court, but those few hundred dollars could mean the difference between paying rent and going into debt for a lot of workers.
Class actions also benefit the courts because they allow the courts to handle up to tens of thousands of similar claims in one blow, rather than having to handle each case individually.
A class of plaintiffs must fulfill certain requirements in order to qualify as a class action. These include claims that are similar enough to justify handling them all at once, competent representation, and a class representative whose claims are sufficiently similar to the rest of the class. It is the judge’s responsibility to make sure all these requirements are met before certifying the class.
If a judge refuses to certify a class of plaintiffs, that’s not necessarily the end of the story. The plaintiffs can always revise their complaint and file a motion to revive their denied bid for class certification.
That’s exactly what a class of more than 1,000 nurses and patient care employees have done in California.
The class action wage and hour lawsuit involves health care workers who worked in Aurora Behavioral Healthcare affiliates in Los Angeles. The company owns several psychiatric hospitals in Southern California.
The employees allege they were denied meal and rest breaks and that their employer allegedly systematically failed to properly compensate them when they worked overtime. They were also allegedly regularly required to work off the clock in order to finish filling out paperwork.
Under California labor law, all hourly employees are entitled to a paid rest break lasting at least ten minutes for every four hours they work. For every five hours of work, they’re entitled to one unpaid meal break of at least half an hour. For every day one of these breaks is not taken, the employee is entitled to one hour’s worth of wages, in addition to all wages and bonuses earned that day.
The plaintiffs allege the hospital had a meal and break policy that required employees to find another employee to cover them for their breaks. The plaintiffs allege this policy caused many employees to skip their breaks, which was in violation of California labor laws.
Judge Elizabeth Allen White of the Los Angeles County Superior Court initially denied class certification, saying there was too much variation between the employees at Aurora Las Encinas LLC in Pasadena and Aurora Charter Oak-Los Angeles LLC.
In asking the court to reconsider their claim for class certification, the plaintiffs claim statistical evidence regarding violations of California law on breaks was ignored in their initial attempt at class certification.
The plaintiffs further argue that denial of class certification would mean they’d have to conduct 500 smaller trials, in front of three appellate court judges, all with essentially the same witnesses, testimony, and facts.
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 Evanston and Waukegan. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Cicero and Berwyn 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 mis-classify 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 unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.