In many lawsuits arising out of New Jersey overtime rights violations, the defendant’s failure to pay overtime wages will not only impact the named plaintiff but will extend to an entire class of employees. In such cases, the plaintiff can seek to pursue a collective action, asking the court to award damages on behalf of all employees who are similarly situated. If a plaintiff wishes to pursue a collective action, he or she must undergo a process in which he or she seeks the court’s approval of the purported class. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey recently explained the process of certifying a class and the level of proof needed to obtain a certification in a New Jersey overtime rights violation case. If your employer failed to pay you and your coworkers wages earned for working overtime you should meet with a seasoned New Jersey overtime rights attorney to discuss what evidence you need to pursue a collective action.
Reportedly, the claimant was employed as a kitchen worker by the defendant. He worked six days per week, two shifts per day, which totaled approximately sixty hours. He was paid a weekly wage of $800.00 but was never informed of his hourly rate and was never compensated for hours worked over forty hours per week. The claimant filed a complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), in which he stated that it was the defendant’s policy not to pay employees overtime wages, and averred that he had conversations with other employees, including kitchen workers and waiters, in which they stated they worked similar hours as the claimant and were not paid overtime wages. He named five other similarly situated workers in his complaint, identifying them by name, position, and physical characteristics. He subsequently filed a motion requesting that the court certify his collective action.
The Process of Determining if an FLSA Collective Action Should be Certified
The FLSA sets forth overtime guarantees that cannot be waived via a contract and grants the right to pursue a collective action to employees who are similarly situated. A collective action differs from a class action in that under the FLSA, collective members must opt-in via written consent. In the Third Circuit, determining whether a collective action should be certified is a two-step process. First, the court must determine whether the putative collective members are employees who are similarly situated to the claimant. If the court finds that they are, it will grant a conditional certification to allow the plaintiff to provide notice to anyone who may choose to opt-in and to allow the parties to conduct discovery.