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Circuits Split on Whether Certain Individual Damages Issues Can Defeat Class Certification in Unpaid Overtime Cases


Due to the recent flood of Supreme Court rulings against class actions, class action plaintiffs have had to fight harder than ever to attain and keep their class status. In Comcast v. Behrend, a lawsuit in which a class of consumers filed a lawsuit against Comcast for illegally inflating its prices, the Supreme Court decertified the class. The class members all had similar complaints against the company, but the award of damages granted to each class member would have to be calculated individually, based on what the members had paid to Comcast and how long they had been customers of the company. Because of this difference in awards of damages, the Supreme Court ruled that the case could not proceed as a class action.

However, class actions have never before needed class members to prove that their claims for damages would be identical in order to pursue their claims as a class. Rather, the only requirements needed for a lawsuit to attain class action status have been: 1) that the class members all share a common complaint against the defendant or defendants; 2) that the class be sufficiently large to justify consolidating the complaints into one lawsuit; 3) that the complaints of the class representatives adequately represent the complaints of the class; and 4) that the attorneys representing the class are sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to provide proper representation to the class.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court’s decision in cases such as Comcast are having their effect on class action lawsuits all over the country. One such case is a wage and hour class action lawsuit which has recently been brought by workers at Applebee’s. The workers are suing their employer, T.L. Cannon, which owns and operates 53 Applebee’s locations in the state of New York. The lawsuit alleges that Cannon violated various wage laws, including the law which states that all hourly workers must be provided with an uninterrupted meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five hours that they work, as well as an uninterrupted rest break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours that they work. According to the lawsuit, Cannon allegedly trained its supervisors and managers to manipulate the time records so that they reflected that the employee had taken these breaks, even when the employees did not actually take these breaks. The result is that the employees allegedly never received wages for time that they worked and for which they should have been paid.

The district court ruled that, because the damages awarded to each plaintiff would need to be calculated individually, it could not continue as a class action. The court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast in its ruling in the case against Cannon. The case was appealed and will now go to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. So far, three other federal appellate courts have rejected the interpretation that the Supreme Court’s decision in Comcast means that class action plaintiffs cannot pursue certification unless all class members have identical claims. Whether or not the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will overrule the district and allow the plaintiffs is this lawsuit to pursue class action status has yet to be determined.

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 Oakbrook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Park Ridge and Lemont. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Wheaton, Joliet, and Romeoville 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.