Court Update: Class Action Litigation Issues

1330873_27868463.jpgA while back we posted on a topic involving the protection of a potential class action suit by a court after the defendant offered to settle the case with an individual named plaintiff. As national class action lawyers, we follow the development of the law in this area very closely.

We recently settled a wage and hour class action litigation involving a major company. This class action involved the company’s failure to properly categorize their employees to avoid providing overtime pay, proper breaks, termination pay and other wages that were due to the employees. Often companies will attempt to avoid wage and hour laws by categorizing those working as employees, as independent contractors instead.

Two recent cases are of interest in this area. In one case, the California First District Court of Appeal tossed out an action brought by a former law clerk that had worked at a private law firm while attending law school. He claimed he was entitled to overtime pay because he was not licensed to practice law at the time that he worked for the firm. He did perform many important tasks, including interviewing witnesses and writing pleadings.

He filed a lawsuit against the firm after he voluntarily left, saying that while he worked there, the firm classified him as a professional employee which exempted the firm from paying overtime to him. He took the position that the classification was improper and that he was not a professional employee. The court of appeal determined that in fact his work did fall under the professional employee exemption in the California Labor Code and that overtime pay was not required. One critical determining factor in the case was the court’s view that, while the plaintiff was not a licensed lawyer, he was exercising a certain degree of discretion and judgment.

In another recent case involving Motorola Bluetooth headsets, a federal court of appeals did not approve a settlement agreement due to the amount of attorneys fees in the settlement. Often class action cases take hundreds, even thousands of hours on the part of many attorneys to investigate and prosecute. The lawyers’ time is compensated only when the case either settles or goes to trial and a fee award is provided to the lawyers who may have worked years in preparing the case. Courts review these settlements and sometimes do not approve them. In this case, the court believed the attorney’s fees were disproportionate to the award to the plaintiffs.

At Hersh & Hersh, we have played a significant role in litigating and settling major class actions. If you have been injured by a defective product or drug or if you are not receiving the benefits and pay you deserve as an employee, please contact our law firm. We will evaluate the situation for you and determine whether you have a case.

Many employees have come to us with concerns about whether they are being paid as required by law. We have helped many of them receive their rightful pay. Please contact our law firm to talk directly with one of our attorneys if you have any questions or concerns about how you are being paid.