Class, Collective, & Representative Actions

These types of lawsuits allow employees to band together and equalize bargaining power against large employers who have unlimited resources.

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Class, Collective, and Representative Lawsuits

Alexei Kuchinsky handles complex litigation, including class actions, collective actions, and representative actions under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (known as “PAGA”). Through these types of lawsuits, he prosecutes wage and hour claims of many similarly-situated employees in an efficient manner. Class, collective and PAGA actions empower employees by allowing them to hire attorneys in cases in which their individual claims are relatively small and when an individual representation may be impractical or highly inefficient. In cases when an employer has committed California Labor Code violations against a large group of employees, the employee’s individual damages may be too small for any attorney to investigate and take a case to trial because litigation costs will far exceed any potential recovery. However, by filing a class, collective or representative action, attorneys may pool all individual claims together and ask the court to resolve the entire matter on a class-wide basis to recover damages for all similarly-situated employees who were subjected to the same Labor Code violations.

The California Supreme Court, in Gentry v. Superior Court, 42 Cal. 4th 443 (2007), has recognized the importance of class actions in litigating wage and hour cases.  First, individual awards in wage cases tend to be modest, so the availability of class procedures plays “an important function. . . by permitting employees . . . a relatively inexpensive way to resolve their disputes.” Second, class actions allow employees, who may otherwise be deterred from filing an individual suit for fear of retaliation, to safely have their “day in court” as a member of the larger group. Finally, class actions serve to inform and protect employees who, for one reason or another, may not otherwise be aware that their rights have been violated.

Therefore, class, collective, and PAGA actions allow employees to band together and equalize bargaining power against large employers who have unlimited resources.

Class action cases typically have one or more named plaintiffs, who may be appointed by the court as class representatives. To serve as class representatives, the named plaintiffs must demonstrate to the court that their claims are common and typical of the claims of all other members of the class. The courts have the discretion to award the class representative an “incentive award.”  The incentive awards are meant to compensate class representatives for work done on behalf of the class, to make up for financial or reputational risk undertaken in bringing the action, and, sometimes to recognize their willingness to act as a private attorney general.

Alexei Kuchinsky has successfully prosecuted many class, collective and PAGA actions, concerning the following violations:

Independent Contractor Misclassification

If you were misclassified as an independent contractor, you may be owed money in back wages. Under California labor law, employees are entitled to various wage and hour benefits, anti-discrimination and retaliation protections, health and safety benefits, reimbursements, and many other protections. However, California Labor Code does not provide the same protections to independent contractors.

Failure to Pay Minimum Wage or Overtime

Paying anything less is a violation of California minimum wage law. This is true even if an employee personally agrees to a lesser hourly rate. In addition, an employer may not use tips earned by an employee (e.g. waiter, bartender, busser, or food runner) as a credit to satisfy the minimum wage requirement. Damages for violating California minimum wage laws are considerable and include unpaid minimum wage with interest, liquidated damages, cost of litigation, and attorney fees.

Failure to Pay for all Hours Worked

California Labor Code requires employers to compensate workers for all hours worked. Specifically, employers must pay for all job duties that constitute an “integral and indispensable part of the principal activities” for which employees are employed.  These principle activities include training, traveling, waiting or being on-call, attending pre-shift meetings or workshops, preparing a work station, doing side-work/paperwork, and checking-out. 

Failure to Pay Premiums for Missed or Unlawful Meal and Rest Periods

All non-exempt employees are entitled to at least a 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked. For every four hours of work, all non-exempt employees are entitled to at least a 10-minute rest break. If an employer fails to provide meal or rest periods, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that the meal or rest period was not provided.

Failure to Reimburse Employment-related Expenses

All California employees are entitled to be indemnified for all necessary expenditures or losses that they incurred in direct consequence of the discharge of their duties as drivers as required in California Labor Code section 2802.

Class Action Attorney

Investigating, prosecuting, and administering class, collective, and PAGA actions is a complex and demanding process that requires both experience and resources. If you believe your employer denied certain wages in violation of California Labor Code due to a uniform unlawful practice and you believe your co-workers have been similarly harmed, Alexei Kuchinsky may be able to assist.

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