Class Certification Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23(a)

We here at Lubin Austermuehle often represent our clients in federal court, and our practice includes handling wage and hour disputes so we keep an eye on such cases filed in Illinois. In re AON Corp. is the consolidation of a New York case with an action filed in Illinois District Court to certify a wage and hour class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). Plaintiffs allege violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (IMWL) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for unpaid overtime. In its opinion, the Court discussed whether the purported class met the four standards required for certification as set forth in FRCP 23(a). The Court analyzed the numerosity of class members, commonality of the issues between class members, typicality of the class representatives, and adequacy of representation proffered by the named Plaintiffs and their attorneys.

The Plaintiffs in this case are former employees of Defendant AON who worked as Associate Specialists, Client Specialists, and Senior Client Specialists in the Client Services Units and Policy Maintenance Units located at AON’s facilities in Illinois and New York. Plaintiffs argue that AON improperly classified the purported class members as administrative employees, thereby violating the IMWL and the FLSA and entitling them to overtime compensation.

The Court found that the Illinois Plaintiffs satisfied the Rule 23(a) numerosity requirement because there were 515 members of the proposed class and joinder of that many actions would be impracticable. The commonality requirement was met because there is a common question of law as to whether the class members were properly classified as administrative workers. The Rule 23(a) typicality requirement was met because all of the claims arise out of the same act of classification and assert the same violation of the law. The adequacy requirement of Rule 23(a) was met because the named Illinois Plaintiffs suffered the same injury as the class and have pursued the case for over 2 years. Additionally, Plaintiffs’ counsel has the requisite resources and experience in both class action and wage & hour litigation to adequately protect the interests of the class. Finally, the Court found that the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) were met despite the fact that the class members have different clients and peripheral duties. The Court concluded that the class members’ essential job functions were similar enough that the central legal issue regarding classification of each class member as an administrative employee under the IMWL predominated and that a class action was a superior method of resolving the case.

To conditionally certify a class under 216(b), Plaintiffs must make a modest factual showing to demonstrate that they and potential plaintiffs together were victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law. Secondly, after all or a significant portion of discovery is completed, the Court must perform a stricter examination of whether the class members are similarly situated. The Plaintiffs sought to apply the first stage of 216(b) analysis, while the Defendant asked the Court to perform the second stage inquiry. The Court held that the second stage analysis was improper due to a relative lack of discovery in the case thus far. A second stage 216(b) analysis would prejudice the New York Plaintiffs by failing to give them adequate opportunity to present a more complete evidentiary picture. Additionally, performing the second phase analysis was premature because potential plaintiffs had not yet received notice and the opportunity to opt into the suit.

The Court conditionally certified the class because there was uniformity between the class representative and the class members due to: the similar type of work they performed, the uniform Defendant-produced processes used to perform their jobs, and the common legal issue of misclassification.

In Re AON Corp. provides guidance for future wage and hour litigants by explaining the requirements for class certification under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This case also provides clarification regarding class certification under the Federal Labor Standards Act. Plaintiffs who seek to certify a class must have some evidence for conditional certification, but also should be mindful that they must acquire more substantial evidence through discovery to fully certify the class under the FLSA.

Lubin Austermuehle is a firm of dedicated attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits. Our firm has successfully prosecuted wage and hour class actions for years and we pride ourselves on getting results. Our Chicagoland area lawyers know the overtime laws and have dealt with the issues that arise from wage claims. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay salary wages instead of hourly wages to avoid paying 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 filing a lawsuit can help to recover their wages. Lubin Austermuehle serves many clients in Chicago, Evanston and Wheaton, but also represents clients across the nation 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 wage and hour attorneys by phone at 1 630-333-0333, or through our online form.

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