What are the First Steps to a Wage and Hour Collective Action Lawsuit?

California’s wage and hour laws require employers to pay employees at least minimum wage, respect the terms of an employment contract and pay overtime when applicable. Unfortunately, not every employer follows state employment laws. Many violate them to save money. If your employer has violated your wage and hour rights, find out if your fellow workers have the same complaint. You and other similarly situated employees may have grounds to bring a wage and hour collective action lawsuit.

What Is Collective Action?

Collective action is a tool the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) gives employees to stand up to wage and hour violations. It is a group cause of action against a shared employer. In a collective action, multiple employees can file a single lawsuit against an employer for a collective settlement or verdict distributed among the employees. One lawyer will agree to represent multiple employees with wage and hour complaints as a group. This saves each employee from having to hire an attorney and deal with the legal process individually. Collective action saves employees time, money and resources.

Is Collective Action Right for You?

A wage and hour collective action might be right for you if you are not the only employee with the same complaint against your employer. It can make it easier to find a lawyer and provide advantages such as saving you time and money. It also improves the efficiency of the overall court process in going up against an employer. Collective action may also have disadvantages, however – especially if you personally have a strong claim.

If you know you have a strong case, it may be faster for you to file your claim individually. Otherwise, you may end up going through a long trial process unnecessarily due to your coworkers’ weaker claims. The courts may also dismiss the case, or you could receive a losing verdict, due to your coworkers’ weaker cases. If you file alone, on the other hand, you may be able to achieve a settlement with your employer without going to trial.

How to File a Collective Action

Recognize the differences between collective action and class action. Collective action is exclusively for FLSA violations, while any group of plaintiffs can file a class action. Anyone who wishes to join a collective action must agree to do so in writing, then file their consent forms in court along with the action. If you believe a collective hour and wage claim is right for you, band together with similarly situated employees. These are workers who are paid in a similar manner to you, with a similar wage and hour complaint.

You have two years to file a wage and hour collective action, according to the FLSA. If your employer willfully violated the terms of the FLSA, you will have three years to file. The statute starts counting down on the date you discover or sustain the losses in question. You must first get the courts to certify your collective action. The courts will investigate your case and determine whether the collective action is valid. If the courts certify your claim, other similarly situated employees may opt-in to the lawsuit. Then, you will enter into the discovery phase, where both sides will gather facts and evidence to submit to the courts.

The courts will review evidence submitted by both sides and determine whether to let the case proceed to trial. If so, the courts will try the collective action using a judge and/or jury. If not, the courts may refuse certification and send the employees back to the beginning: filing individual wage and hour claims. Hire a lawyer to help you navigate a collective action FLSA claim in California. The right attorney can improve your odds of securing fair compensation.