It’s one of the worst HR nightmares possible: One disgruntled employee claims she represents hundreds or thousands of employees who have allegedly suffered discrimination. What was a single case suddenly grows into a huge, companywide class-action lawsuit—with a price tag that has suddenly grown exponentially.
Fortunately, federal courts handling Minnesota cases seem to be stepping back from the brink. They’re not approving as many class-action requests.
Recent case: Rosalind Brown, an attorney with a master’s degree in labor relations, sued her employer, Ameriprise. She claimed that the discrimination she allegedly suffered was rampant within the company and wanted to represent all other similarly situated employees.
The federal court hearing her case was reluctant. It hasn’t yet dismissed her case, but will allow more discovery. However, it did say that class-action treatment didn’t seem appropriate given that Brown wanted to bring in all black employees from across the company, regardless of their job or location.
That was a problem for the court because such cases are hard to handle; many of the claims are based on different facts. It said class-action litigation is reserved for cases involving many employees affected by the same employer practice. (Brown v. Ameriprise, No. 09-2413, DC MN, 2010)