It’s frustrating to be sued, especially when it looks like the litigation could become a class-action lawsuit. But warn supervisors: It will only make matters worse if they threaten potential members of the class.
Courts want employees to freely choose whether to participate in class actions. If courts suspect that intimidation is a factor, they’ll step in.
Recent case: When agricultural workers at Delano Farms filed a federal and state wage-and-hour class-action lawsuit, a supervisor allegedly threatened several employees that they would lose their jobs if they participated.
The law firm representing employees then went to federal court to get a temporary restraining order prohibiting any reprisals against potential members of the class. The court will now, in effect, supervise Delano Farms’ supervisors. (Arrendondo, et al., v. Delano Farms, No. 09-1247, ED CA, 2010)
Final note: It’s worth reminding supervisors that the U.S. Department of Labor has stepped up enforcement of wage-and-hour laws in the past two years. It has particularly focused on migrant and agricultural workers. For example, a federal grand jury in Honolulu has indicted six labor contractors from a Los Angeles staffing company on charges that they detained as virtual prisoners 400 Thai farm workers who were in the U.S. on agricultural guest worker visas. The indictment charges the company with human trafficking.