Claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act can sometimes be brought as class actions. This usually makes sense when there is a common policy or practice of the employer that affects many employees in a similar way. There are many examples of these types of policies and practices. Just a few include:
- Not paying for short breaks
- Wrongfully classifying certain groups of employees as exempt from overtime
- A policy requiring off-the-clock work
- Not paying for inter-day travel time or mandatory travel back to the employer’s location at the end of the day
- Illegal deductions from wages or tips
There can be many more examples. However, the key is usually a common policy or practice that is illegal and that affects many employees in a similar way.
The Supreme Judicial Court discussed Wage Act class actions in some detail in this case: Salvas v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 452 Mass. 337 (2008). The basic requirements of a class action are:
- Numerosity: There are enough people in the class, usually more than 40 are required.
- Commonality: Common questions affect all or a substantial number of the class members.
- Typicality: The claims come out of the same policies, patterns or practices and are based on the same legal theories.
- Fair representation by the class representatives: the plaintiff (class representative) does not have a conflict with the class, and counsel is able, qualified and experienced.
- Predominance of common issues of law and fact over individual issues.
- Superiority of a class action over individual cases: This is related to the predominance requirement and basically means that a class action is better than a bunch of individual cases. This has much to do with the uniformity of the policy and practices involved and the effect of those policies on the class members.
Plaintiffs who act as class representatives have a duty to the class. They have a duty to seek a just result for the entire class, not just for themselves. However, in exchange for being this instrument of common justice, class representatives often receive court-approved monetary incentive payments.