Wage and Hour Class Actions:
A Guide for California Employees

A class action wage/hour lawsuit in California is a lawsuit in which a large group of employees with the same grievance against their employer sue their employer as a group.

A class action suit in a wage and hour case might make sense if an employer was, as a matter of course, violating California wage/hour laws with regard to a number of employees by:

What are the benefits of a class action in a wage/hour case?

Simply put, a class action allows an employment attorney to pool the resources of a large number of plaintiffs. This has several advantages.

Gavel-and-dollar-sign
A class action suit in a wage and hour case can increase the amount of time and resources that an employment attorney can devote to the case.

First, a class action increases the amount of time and resources an attorney can devote to the case.

In wage/hour suits, the attorney's fee is typically a percentage of the amount recovered by the employee. With a large number of employee plaintiffs, the total damages will be larger. This in turn justifies a greater investment by the attorney.

Second, a class action in a wage/hour case raises the economic stakes for an employer. This means an employer may be more likely to agree to a settlement--that is, to pay the employees the unpaid wages that it owes them without the time and expense of a trial.

What are the legal requirements for an employment class action in California?

A successful wage/hour class action lawsuit in California requires three things:

  1. An ascertainable and sufficiently numerous class of plaintiff employees;
  2. A well-defined community of interest; and
  3. Substantial benefits from a class action that make the class action preferable to other formats for the wage/hour lawsuit.[1] 
Gavel-and-law-books
The law of class action lawsuits in California requires a "community of interest" among the plaintiffs.

Often the most crucial of these three factors is the "community of interest." The class action community of interest involves three factors:

  1. Predominant common questions of law or fact;
  2. Class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and
  3. Class representatives who can adequately represent the class.[2]

What all this means in practice is that a class action in a California wage or hour lawsuit is probably most appropriate when:

  • A large number of employees are involved in a wage/hour violation by a single employer;
  • The wage/hour violation was the same or similar for all these employees;
  • The circumstances surrounding the wage or hour law violation were the same or similar for all these employees; and
  • Certain employees whose situation is typical of the others are willing to serve as class representatives.

For example, a wage and hour class action might be appropriate if:

  • An employer wrongly classified a sizable group of employees with a similar job description as exempt employees and failed to pay them overtime; 
  • A manager who oversaw a large group of employees required "work off the clock" from all of them; or
  • A company systematically denied employees their required meal breaks at a particular work site.

Call us for help....

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For questions about California wage and hour class action lawsuits or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local employment law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

Legal References:

  1. Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1021. ("The party advocating class treatment [in a wage/hour suit] must demonstrate the existence of an ascertainable and sufficiently numerous class, a well-defined community of interest, and substantial benefits from certification that render proceeding as a class superior to the alternatives. (Code Civ. Proc., § 382; Fireside Bank, at p. 1089, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d 861, 155 P.3d 268; Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co. (2000) 23 Cal.4th 429, 435, 97 Cal.Rptr.2d 179, 2 P.3d 27; City of San Jose, at p. 459, 115 Cal.Rptr. 797, 525 P.2d 701.) “In turn, the ‘community of interest requirement embodies three factors: (1) predominant common questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class.' ” (Fireside Bank, at p. 1089, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d 861, 155 P.3d 268, quoting Richmond v. Dart Industries, Inc. (1981) 29 Cal.3d 462, 470, 174 Cal.Rptr. 515, 629 P.2d 23.)")
  2. Same. ("“In turn, the ‘community of interest requirement embodies three factors: (1) predominant common questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class.'")

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