Can a “class action” apply to my employees?

It may be possible for a group of employees to file a class action lawsuit against an employer. A class action lawsuit, which is when a representative brings a lawsuit to court on behalf of a large group of victims who have the same complaint, can apply in a situation where a group of employees want to bring a class action lawsuit against an employer. In fact, in cases where a company's employment practices are unfair or illegal, they affect several employees at once and over a period of time, so there can be a large number of people involved. A class action lawsuit is an excellent solution in many of these situations.

Generally speaking, however, employment class actions are only available when a sufficient number of employees have allegedly suffered the same or sufficiently similar legal harm. Federal class actions have been certified with as little as 20 employees.

Common class actions in the employment and labor arena include wage and hour employment class actions (a class of “exempt” employees is misclassified, overtime is incorrectly calculated, or rest and meal periods, if required by law, are not provided) and class actions involving independent contractor status.

Another common reason for employment class actions is based on a discrimination complaint, and such is the claim with a current case in the headlines, in which over 1.5 million female employees are suing Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in what has become the largest class action discrimination suit in America's history. The suit alleges that women were paid less than men and turned down for advanced positions and promotions. The question has been raised throughout the case as to whether such a large group of plaintiffs, all of whom worked at different Wal-Mart stores and in multiple positions across the country, should be allowed to file a single class action lawsuit in this manner.

As of December 2010, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the employment class action lawsuit as-is, and it is believed that handling the situation as a class action lawsuit is the most effective and cost-efficient way to ensure the charges are handled properly and the company's policies are changed.