Changing the Game

Summer 2011Articles New Jersey Labor and Employment Law Quarterly

Over the past few years, employers have seen a precipitous increase in the number of employment-related class actions. Whether the lawsuit asserts discrimination claims, purported wage and hour abuses, or claims that employers have failed to provide proper notice of a plant closing, these class action lawsuits target employers of all sizes across all industries. Furthermore, many employment-related class action lawsuits often take years to resolve. Aside from the massive legal costs necessary to defend these lawsuits, class actions provide employees with a vehicle to incorporate all similarly situated employees into one lawsuit, even if only one employee is actively pursuing those claims. In those cases where the employee can establish liability, the employer will be required to pay a settlement of judgment incorporating each employee’s claims, even if those employees did not participate in the lawsuit.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that will have a profound impact on how employmentrelated class actions are litigated. In Wal- Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the Supreme Court clarified the standards that plaintiffs must satisfy in order to certify a lawsuit as a class action. The clarifications enunciated by the Supreme Court will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to have their lawsuits certified as a class action, and will provide some procedural relief to employers.