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Good news: Courts more willing to throw out class actions for break violations

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Talk about expensive propositions: A simple lawsuit brought by one or two employees with a gripe can blow up big time if they try to sue on behalf of every other employee who may have been harmed by the same alleged wrong.

In essence, class-action lawsuits mean relatively minor damages due the one or two original plaintiffs will be multiplied by however many other employees may have been affected. Thus, a lawsuit that might have been worth $2,000 could suddenly wind up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Plus, the attorneys who represented the class will be reimbursed for representing everyone, not just the one or two employees who originally complained.

Fortunately, some judges are clamping down on class actions, reserving them for rare cases.

Recent case: Several Wells Fargo employees sued their employer, alleging that they routinely missed meal and rest periods and that the company did not pay them the premium California labor law requires when employees miss those breaks. The employees claimed that Wells Fargo management went out of its way to make it difficult for employees to take breaks.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California refused to expand the lawsuit into a class action. It said there was no evidence that everyone who might have missed a break did so because of a single company policy. Rather, they might have missed breaks for any number of reasons. (Castle v. Wells Fargo Financial Inc., No. 06-CV-04347, ND CA, 2008)

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