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Disney fights class action certification in wage and hour case

The plaintiffs in employment class actions in Missouri and around the country are sometimes awarded damages that run into the tens of millions of dollars. This type of legal action occurs when several workers with identical claims against their employer elect to join together and file a single lawsuit. Class actions allow plaintiffs to share their legal expenses, and they also put more pressure on employers to settle. However, a judge must review the case and certify the class action before litigation can begin.

Judges will generally only grant such certification if the legal claim involved applies to all of the members of the class. Establishing this is sometimes difficult as employers often contest class action certifications vigorously. These are the arguments currently being made in California in a case involving a group of Walt Disney Company workers who accuse their longtime employer of violating the California Fair Pay Act. The case was originally filed by three Disney employees on April 3, but the number of plaintiffs has now grown to 10.

Disney submitted court documents seeking to prevent a class action certification on Oct. 18. The company claims that the complexity of the organization would make it impossible for the court hearing the case to determine whether or not California's wage and hour laws have been violated. The plaintiffs filed a response to Disney's motion on Nov. 6. A judge is expected to rule on the matter on Dec. 11.

Attorneys with experience in employment disputes may study the facts of a particular case closely before advising one of their clients whether or not to join a class action. The damages awarded in class action lawsuits are often divided equally between the plaintiffs, which may not be an equitable outcome in every situation. When employees have compelling evidence of misconduct and their injury, loss or damage is severe, attorneys may suggest they file an individual lawsuit instead of joining a class.

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