A class-action lawsuit is a representative action that can protect the rights of numerous workers affected by one employer – here’s how to begin the process of filing a class-action lawsuit.
You’ve likely received one of those little white envelopes in the mail marked “Mr. Jones vs. ABC Corp” – or something similar, over the course of your career. And by signing up for a class action suit and joining the ranks of hundreds or even thousands of individuals affected by a business or organization, you may be entitled to part of a legal class action settlement as decided by a court of law. These class-action suits are more common than you might think, as hundreds of them are filed each year across the nation, and millions of dollars are paid out to worthy recipients entitled to their fair share of the collective settlement. If you feel like a class action suit is the right move in response to a specific grievance with your employer, first ask yourself:
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS?
Do your research, determine which specific laws or legal protections the employer is violating, and truly understand whether your company is operating outside the parameters of the law, or whether you’re simply not happy with their policies. Try to stick to the facts and keep your emotions in check during this fact-finding mission, and be discreet about it. Be careful about divulging too much information early on, as an employer could react negatively if they feel you’re inciting discontent at the workplace. Simply keep your eyes open and decide if the situation warrants documentation, or if this is something that can be fixed with a conversation.
HAS THERE BEEN DOCUMENTATION?
Keep this mantra in mind – “If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” Take time to document all the events, conversations, and related documents that can help support your upcoming case. Items like your performance reviews, timesheets, emails, and other documents can be highly valuable later on, but be cautious to take only what you have legitimate access to. Sneaking internal or confidential documents out of work could backfire come lawsuit time.
HOW GOOD IS MY CASE?
Your attorney will help you on this one, but ask yourself – are you looking for a way to “stick it to the company” or “get rich quick?” If so, you may want to question your motives. Retaliating against the company via a class action lawsuit is a truly laborious undertaking. And seeking a multi-million-dollar payout is fine, but understand that the leading class action suits you hear about represent a small percentage of the total pool of winnings.
If you can say that you are confident your employer is breaking the law, you’ve documented the reasons why, and you’re ready and able to fight through a class action lawsuit, then it’s time to partner with the right class action attorney. And, understanding the class action process is important, too. Read on to learn about these steps:
- Find the Right Attorney
You’ll want to partner with an employment law firm that not only has the available resources to manage the additional burdens of a class-action suit, but also the real-world experience to draw upon. They should be able to point to a list of successful class-action suits they’ve won, and the resulting payouts to the deserving plaintiffs in each case. Seek an attorney who offers a no-cost consultation.
- File the Complaint
Yes, your attorney will handle the actual processing of paperwork, but you should know what happens each step of the way. Your counsel will initiate the case by filing a complaint with the court. The defendant will have an opportunity to respond with either an answer to the complaint, a motion to dismiss, or some other type of legal pleading.
- The Discovery Phase
Filing the complaint is the first step, but you’ll then work with your attorney to provide as much information as possible during the discovery phase. They’ll ask for evidence of your complaint, so make sure you gather and retain as much legal evidence as possible before this step. Both sides of the case will swap evidence that supports their respective claims.
Once all information is provided to both sides and a judge has had a chance to review everything, a determination will be made whether to certify the case or not. If it is certified, the claimants will then have to decide if they want to stay in the case by signing a legal form. Individuals can also choose to file their own grievance outside of the class action.
- Trial Phase
The next step is the actual trial. The employer may decide to fight back and move the case to a trial, or they’ll hopefully settle for a desirable amount and you can get your life back. In either case, an experienced employment law attorney will help you decide which is the right option for your case.
- The Class Action Settlement
Upon winning the case, the court will order the employer to pay a predetermined amount to the individuals listed in the class action. As the head plaintiff(s), you may be entitled to a sort of bonus or extra compensation from the attorney – imagine it’s like a referral bonus for the lucrative case.