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Class Actions and Collective Actions Can Proceed Together Appellate Court Rules

Class action and collective action lawsuits are both important tools for plaintiffs with common complaints against the same defendant. Both types of lawsuits allow plaintiffs to do essentially the same thing in terms of the rights they can win for plaintiffs, but with one distinct difference.

In class actions, all the potential plaintiffs that can be identified are automatically included in the class unless they opt out. By contrast, collective actions require potential class members to submit a valid claim in order for them to be included in the lawsuit. Each type of lawsuit has its own procedural rules but, according to the Eleventh Circuit Court, the filing of one type of lawsuit does not invalidate a lawsuit of the other kind, even if both were filed by the same plaintiffs.

Four sheriff’s deputies in Lee County, Florida filed a collective action against their sheriff, Michael Scott, for allegedly requiring them to work overtime without properly compensating them for the extra hours they worked. The collective action alleges Scott violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by refusing to pay the proper overtime compensation of one and one-half times their normal hourly rate when they worked more than 40 hours a week.

The class action, filed by the same plaintiffs, alleges the sheriff violated the Florida Minimum Wage Act (FMWA) and is seeking compensation for those claims.

A lower Florida court granted the plaintiffs conditional certification for their FLSA claims, but refused to certify their claims brought under state law. In it’s decision, the lower court referred to a previous ruling by a district court that had found a collective action was not compatible with a class action brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court, which reversed the ruling of the lower court. The appellate court decided that the lower court had misapplied the district court’s ruling, which pertained to the ADEA, and not the FMWA. The circuit court also pointed out that the FLSA specifically includes a clause to make sure the federal law does not overrule any local labor laws that offer more protection than the FLSA provides.

According to the wage and hour lawsuits, the deputies allege they were regularly required to perform work off the clock, including traveling to and from their patrol vehicles, changing into and out of protective gear, and being ready for duty 30 minutes before their shifts began. According to the lawsuit, these extra duties added up and required them to work an average of 43 hours per week.

Under the FLSA, the deputies were allegedly entitled to the premium overtime compensation of one and one-half times their normal hourly wages for the additional three hours they spent working every week. If the total wages they were paid, divided by the hours they worked, is less than the mandatory minimum wage, then the plaintiffs can file for minimum wage claims, as well as overtime claims. According to the circuit court, there is nothing in the FLSA that prevents local class actions and related federal collective actions moving forward simultaneously.

Our Cicero and Palatine wage and hour and employment law attorneys and unpaid overtime lawyers and attorneys are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages. We represent call center workers who are forced to work overtime but are not paid time and half wages.

Nationwide Consumer Rights is based in Chicago and Oak Brook. We represent clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at (877) 990-4990 or through our online form.