“What are class actions?” It’s a question we frequently get from employees who contact us about their legal rights.
Well, have you ever received an unexpected check in the mail because of a consumer class action lawsuit against your phone carrier, or a company that you bought tickets from, or some other company you had totally forgotten about? Have you ever received an email with the subject line, “Notice of Class Action Settlement,” with instructions about how to file a claim so you can get your share of the settlement? Have you ever wondered, how is it that I am getting money from a lawsuit that I didn’t even know about?
Class actions are one of our best tools for holding employers accountable and recovering money owed to employees. In a class action, one or more employees can bring a lawsuit seeking to represent all other employees “similarly situated” to them. That could mean twenty employees, or thousands, depending on the size of employer and the nature of the unlawful practice.
Class actions are especially useful when the amount of money at stake is too small to make it worth the time and expense of filing a lawsuit on behalf of just one individual, such as in cases involving improper tip sharing and failure to pay wages. Although we have recovered large sums for employees in some of our class actions here at Fair Work, we also represent employees in cases where the individual recovery could be a few thousand dollars, or sometimes less than a thousand dollars. But that amount of money can mean a lot to our clients.
The U.S. Department of Labor has published a great graphic demonstrating that $1,150 dollars can be the equivalent of two or three paychecks for workers in jobs such as housekeeping, security, cleaning, landscaping, and retail. It can mean a month of rent, or five weeks of groceries, or seven weeks of childcare for some workers.
If you think your employer may be violating the wage laws, or if you are confused about whether you are getting the money you are owed, don’t hesitate to contact us.