The app-based transportation network Uber continues to face legal troubles, as three lawsuits have been brought in the last month on behalf of Uber passengers. The San Francisco-based company is also facing a class action lawsuit in which a class of drivers says the company failed to pay them as employees. Jillian Boyce, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, discussed the drivers' lawsuit in a previous post.
Class action lawsuits relate to a specific area of law, and many people are not aware of how class actions work. Here let's go over the basics.
The Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly called ERISA, is a federal law that establishes standards for protecting the retirement funds of millions of Americans who work in private industry. There is no requirement under ERISA that employers must provide a pension plan, but employers who do establish retirement plans -- a 401(k), for example -- must the meet the minimum standards under the law.
In October we discussed a New Jersey bill that, if passed into law, would reduce penalties for some companies that commit technical violations of the state's Consumer Fraud Act. One aspect of the bill, which you can read more about in our previous post, allows companies to avoid having to pay plaintiffs' legal fees and other costs if the violation in question did not result in loss to the consumer.
To settle a class action lawsuit against Wells Fargo, a deal has been proposed to divide $5.6 million among about 135 brokers. The suit was brought by two brokers who formerly worked at Wells Fargo Advisors LLC, and the case may be of interest to individuals and companies with complex employment agreements involving bonuses and other benefits.
Honda Motor Co. and Takata Corp. are the targets of a recently filed lawsuit alleging the manufacturers prioritized profits over customer safety. The suit, which seeks class-action status, claims that Takata built cheap airbags to cut costs and that Honda bought the airbags to cut manufacturing expenses. Consequently, the airbags are "killing and maiming drivers and passengers involved in otherwise minor and survivable accidents."
In late August, an Indiana warehouse used to process Walmart merchandise was evacuated because of a toxic contamination, and one worker has brought a negligence claim against the mega-retailer. The lawsuit seeks class action status.
Serious allegations have been leveled in a class action lawsuit against a slew of major studios and digital animation companies. According to the suit, which was brought on behalf of a former effects artist at DreamWorks Animation, "some of the most recognizable names in the American entertainment and technology industries" conspired to establish "non-poaching" agreements that effectively deprived class members of millions in compensation.
When an investor or consumer decides to sue a business, the case may have merits as a class action, but not every case does. After the lawsuit has been filed, the court will consider the case and determine whether it meets the requirements of a class action. If the issues common to members of the class outweigh the issues specific to each member, then a class action can be certified as such.
Employers who fail to give proper notification of a mass layoff could be subject to penalties, including payment of wages the laid-off employees would have received after the required notification of the layoff. Individual workers whose employment has been inappropriately terminated in a mass layoff may bring a lawsuit against the employer on behalf of other workers who are similarly situated. This sort of class action can result not only in compensation for employees' lost wages, but also civil penalties against the employer.