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How To File A Class Action Against Your Employer in California

Do you and your workers have the same grievances against your employer?

You may be able to file a class action employment lawsuit. Here’s how, in California.

In the United States, there’s a 12% chance that small and medium-sized businesses will face an employment lawsuit.

In some states, the chances are even higher. In New York, for example, companies face a 66% higher risk than the national average.

One of the factors that contribute to the disparity between states is state laws. They can significantly impact on the risk faced by a business from an employment lawsuit.

Here, we look at how you can successfully file a class action employment lawsuit.


What is a Class Action Employment Lawsuit?

A class action employment lawsuit refers to a case where a large group of employees sues their employer. They have common grievances against their employer and hence seek legal redress collectively. Most of these lawsuits revolve around wage or hour laws, but other reasons exist for such cases.

In California, employment lawsuits revolve around a failure by employers to pay overtime wages.

Some employers have also deliberately misclassified non-exempt employees as exempt from overtime laws.

Exempt employees are those that the California wage and hour laws don’t apply.

They include administrators, executives, and professionals with an income twice the minimum wage. Computer software professionals also fall under this category. An employer has no right to exempt an employee through either a contract or paying a salary instead of a wage.

The wage laws protect non-exempt employees, giving provision for meal and rest breaks. Unfortunately, there’ve been numerous cases of misclassification. Businesses primarily do so to avoid paying overtime and meeting other requirements.

An employer may ask an employee to sign a contract, showing that they agree to exemption from overtime requirements. Additionally, the employer may require the employee to undertake numerous tasks or “work off the clock.”

Under California wage and hour laws, such conditions can warrant an employee to file an employment lawsuit. The aim is to collect overtime compensation from the employer. A class action lawsuit is the best approach if many employees are affected.


Work Off the Clock

It’s against the law in California for an employer to require an employee to work off the clock without compensation. Work off the clock is work done without pay, but with the knowledge of the employer. According to the law, even work done shortly before or after clocking should be compensated.

Work off the clock situations largely differ. Sometimes the workers or supervisors will require the extra time to cover some amount of work. In other times, an employer may subtly request or encourage it.

Some forms of work off the clock duties include:

  • Administrative work
  • Pre-shift work like preparation of equipment
  • Correcting a mistake on a project
  • Post-shift work like cleaning up
  • Tasks performed during meal or rest break


Mostly, work off the clock is work that should be compensated at the regular pay rate. It’s important to note that salaried employees are also entitled to work off the clock claims. Non-exempt employees who work longer than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week are entitled to compensation.

Other cases that can warrant employees to file a class action employment lawsuit are:

  • Failure to receive the local minimum wage
  • Systemic discrimination
  • Mass layoffs
  • Violations of equal pay requirements
  • Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
  • Discriminatory acts based on age, sex, or color
  • Pregnancy and religion-based bigotry
  • National-based discrimination


Being denied meal or rest breaks is also another legal reason to seek the court’s intervention. These violations may apply to individuals or a class of employees.


Requirements for Filing an Employment Lawsuit

When employees feel they have sufficient reasons to file a lawsuit, there are requirements they must fulfill. The first most important step is to receive class certification. This means that the plaintiff must show that the class is measurable and significant.

The court examines the estimated class and the means of identifying the members. The group must also demonstrate that

  • The members share common questions of fact or law
  • The representative’s claims represent those of the members
  • The representative will cater to all members wholesomely
  • The class action lawsuit is superior to individual litigation


Courts are guided by federal standards in determining whether to certify a suit. If the court rules favorably for the class, they can proceed with the case. However, if certification is denied, the group can’t continue with the claim.

They can, however, appeal this position of denial only once.


Notice to the Class

Upon certification of the class action suit, all the members of the class should be notified of the position. At this point, members have a right to opt out of the class. Anyone who does so won’t be eligible for any possible compensation.

If the case isn’t ruled in favor of the class, anyone who opted out may later bring an individual employment lawsuit against the employer. Most lawsuits are resolved through negotiation and settlement. If the parties agree, the court should first approve the settlement before closing the matter.

Again, members must be notified of the said agreement and settlement.


Final Thoughts

Many employees work for companies that violate their rights in one way or another. However, they can always seek professional legal help in addressing these issues once they’re aware of them. Among the most common causes of employment, lawsuits are low wages and denial of overtime compensation.

Employers will sometimes try to keep their overheads low. This they do by deliberately or otherwise denying overtime compensation to workers.

Whatever the reason for filing a class action lawsuit, employees must meet the requirements. If filing as a group, they must first get certified by the court. This means that they must prove their common interest.

They also must have a representative who’ll prove their case as a whole. Upon obtaining certification, they can proceed with the case or opt out.

Settlement of case action lawsuits can be achieved through negotiation or compensation. If you’d like help in any step in the process, contact class action lawyers to guide you.

If you want to find out if you have a case against your boss or company, be sure to contact us for a FREE CONSULT.

Below is a helpful infograph on filing a complaint with the EEOC for a class action.



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