You may think that settling a class-action lawsuit puts an end to the matter, stopping further claims by an employee who was a member of the class. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
If you know an employee has filed another EEOC complaint or lawsuit, be sure to tell your attorney when the class-action suit is being settled. Otherwise, you may soon be back in court.
Recent case: Adarella worked in pharmaceutical sales for Novartis. She and some co-workers were part of a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit brought against the company. The case was settled and Adarella received compensation in exchange for releasing future claims.
But while the class action was pending, Adarella had filed her own federal lawsuit—this one over whether Novartis discriminated against her because of her race and age. Adarella, who is black, was over age 40 at the time.
Novartis argued Adarella had been part of the settlement over workplace practices and was therefore prohibited from further litigation.
The court disagreed. Because age and race discrimination wasn’t included in the other lawsuit, she could still pursue those claims. (Deylii v. Novartis, No. 13-CV-06669, SD NY, 2014)
Final note: Once an employer becomes a defendant in a class-action lawsuit, an invisible barrier that may have prevented other employees from pursuing discrimination claims comes down. It’s one reason to proactively review pay and other policies that may discriminate.
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