In order for plaintiffs to successfully file a class action or collective action lawsuit against a common defendant, one of the things they need to be able to prove is that they were all subject to the same, systematic treatment by the defendant. In wage and hour class action lawsuits, this means the alleged misconduct needs to be a standard part of the defendant’s practices. Even an unwritten rule can be subject to a large lawsuit if it resulted in employees consistently receiving the same treatment.
When plaintiffs from six different states all allege they were subjected to similar mistreatment by their employer, their petition for class action or collective action stands a pretty good chance of getting the OK from a judge.
In early 2014, seven current and former service technicians for General Electric Co. all alleged they had not been properly compensated for the time they spent working under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state laws. The technicians worked for the power company in Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida. Not only was their petition for collective action granted, but the wage and hour lawsuit was also combined with a similar lawsuit that had been filed in Florida against GE the year before.
The service technicians allege they were intimidated by their supervisors when they tried to claim overtime hours on their time sheets. The overtime tasks allegedly included things like traveling between jobs, responding to work-related emails, and logging onto a computer system so they could access jobs. Despite the extra hours they allegedly had to spend at work to complete these extra tasks, the intimidation they allegedly faced from their supervisors when they turned in their time sheets with overtime meant that they didn’t always get paid for all the time they had spent working.
The collective action was conditionally certified by a U.S. district judge in 2014. GE tried to have the case dismissed, but failed. From there, the next step was either to start preparing for trial and/or start negotiating a settlement agreement. The parties agreed to put off trial preparations in favor of negotiations.
All that time set aside for negotiations finally paid off because, in early 2017, the parties announced they had agreed to settle the dispute for $9.5 million. Approximately one third of that amount will go to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys for their time spent and the legal costs they’ve incurred on the case.
The settlement agreement provides a flat payment of $1,500 to plaintiffs who opted into the collective action and a flat payment of $750 for the non-opt-in plaintiffs. The thirteen named plaintiffs, in addition to the two named plaintiffs from the 2013 Florida lawsuit that joined the collective action, will each receive $5,000 in incentive awards.
Despite having agreed to spend a large amount of money to settle the lawsuit, GE continues to deny the allegations involved in the overtime collective action lawsuit. Instead, GE is choosing to avoid the expense, hassle, and uncertainty of a continued legal battle, which could be dragged out in the courts for years to come.
The Chicago class action and employment law 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 Wheaton and Carol Stream. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Aurora and Cicero overtime and employment 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 Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.