Ninth Circuit Protects Wage & Hour Class Action

A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is good news for victims of wage and hour violations. As California wage and hour lawyers, we want to keep our readers informed of the law in this area.

In a case involving a Nevada employee, the court answered the following question: when a class representative rejects an offer of judgment of the full amount of his or her claim, and that offer precedes the filing of a motion for class certification, is the class action complaint still viable? The court said that it is. The case was decided by the Ninth Circuit, which also includes California, so the law of this case would also apply to California employees.

In the Spring of 2009, the plaintiff filed a class action complaint in his state (Nevada) against his employer for failing to pay overtime and minimum wages to him and those similarly situated. Among the allegations in the complaint were violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), violations of Nevada’s labor laws and breach of contract.

The defendant employer removed the case to federal court, which is how the Ninth Circuit ended up ruling on the case. The federal trial court began discovery, but the plaintiff had difficulty getting the information needed from the defendant to try to obtain class certification. A class action is a procedure that is applicable when many people have been injured in the same way. The injured parties can ask the court to allow “class certification” so that all plaintiffs who have been injured can proceed together.

In this case, the plaintiff tried to get information from the defendant to enable him to seek class certification to make it possible for the case to go forward with more injured victims. But the defendant stalled and would not provide the information requested. The plaintiff asked the court to make the defendant provide the information and the court said it would decide this later, but also extended what is called “discovery” so that the parties would have time to learn what they needed to learn from one another.

While all of this was happening, the defendant made an offer to resolve this case by offering judgment against it in favor of the plaintiff. But the plaintiff did not accept the offer, even though it would have compensated him fully for his monetary claim. The defendant employer than asked the court to dismiss the action, saying that the class action was no longer viable since it had made this offer, it was rejected and the plaintiff had not yet asked that the class be certified. The trial court said that the plaintiff did not timely file the request for class action certification and dismissed the case, saying it was “moot.”

But the Ninth Circuit ultimately ruled that even though the plaintiff had rejected the offer of judgment and he had not yet moved for class certification, the case could proceed because the class certification motion was still timely. What this means is the plaintiff can still proceed to ask the court to certify the class action.

The lawyers of Hersh & Hersh dedicate their practice to protecting injured consumers and employees. If you have been injured by your employer and are not receiving proper wages, or if you are concerned that you are not receiving overtime pay, please contact our law firm. We provide free consultations to evaluate legal matters such as wage and hour violations.