On September 13, 2017, the Massachusetts Superior Court for Suffolk County certified a class action against Helping Hands Company, Inc., a provider of home care services in Massachusetts. Escorbor v. Helping Hands Co., Inc, C.A. No. 15-2053-D. (Suffolk Sup. Crt. 2017) (Wilkins, J.). Our firm was appointed class counsel. The case is for the unpaid wages and expenses of home care aides who travel between clients’ homes without pay during the workday. The class certification motion was vigorously contested and the decision is notable because the Court affirmed several important concepts for workers in Massachusetts.
- The plaintiffs’ theory of liability controls at the class certification stage.
- The Massachusetts Wage Act provides an independent statutory basis for class actions. Here, the class satisfied the traditional Rule 23 requirements, but in another case where, for example, traditional numerosity wasn’t satisfied, the statutory basis for class actions, which only requires that employees be “similarly situated,” might be utilized.
- The failure of an employer to keep track of work time –required by state statute and regulation–may warrant an injunction in favor of a class that might require, as a remedy, an employer to reconstruct time records.
- An employer cannot get a credit for a wage that is due and owing by pointing to another payment that was meant for another purpose.
- Variance in damages among class members does not prevent the certification of a class.
- The Wage Act favors class actions because, in part, it helps employees get paid wages without antagonizing an employer, i.e. only one employee has to stick her neck out for the the whole group.
The court also wrote that, “During motion practice and in oral arguments, the Court has observed first-hand the adequacy and competence of class counsel,” id. at 10, which was gratifying to read. The case now continues, but now as a class action. I am sure that each side is weighing their options.