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When inconsistency pays: Lack of uniform policy helps get class action decertified

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

A federal court has decertified a class-action FLSA case involving several thousand workers at a hospital in Langhorne. The class representative was unable to show that an employer’s policies were uniformly enforced and therefore couldn’t show that the named litigants were “typical” of the entire group.

Recent case: St. Mary Medical Center employed several thousand hourly workers across a range of occupational categories, including nursing and other health services. The hospital had a time-tracking system that automatically deducted a 30-minute meal break for all workers that worked at least five-and-a-half hours per day.

The break was unpaid. Employees were supposed to change their time sheets if they worked through the meal break, to add the time back as paid time.

When an employee sued, alleging failure to pay for time worked, he sought to represent every other similarly situated hourly worker who had been forced to track meal time and request pay for missed meals.

The class was provisionally certified and pretrial discovery began. Then the hospital asked to have the class decertified, arguing that it was clear that there was no set policy on how employees could be paid for lost mealtimes.

That, it argued, meant that no one employee was typical of the group.

The court agreed and decertified the class. The employees will now have to bring individual, separate lawsuits. (Jarosz v. St. Mary Medical Center, No. 10-3330, ED PA, 2014)

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