A “class action” lawsuit is brought on behalf of a large group of people who have a similar complaint. Class actions are not uncommon in employment law, especially for wage-and-hour violations. While a single individual’s unpaid wages might not be large enough to make it worth bringing a lawsuit, a group of employees might be able to share costs and make the effort cost-effective.
Recently, employers have been trying to stop class actions by requiring workers to waive their right to bring one as a condition of employment. Back in 2012, only 16% of large employers required class-action waivers, but by last year that number had skyrocketed to 43%.
Are these waivers legally valid? That’s not entirely clear.
A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a telecom company’s sales agreements could require customers who wanted to get phone service to waive their right to bring a class action. Although that case didn’t involve employment law, some people thought it was an indication that class actions could be waived by employees as well.
However, the National Labor Relations Board has suggested that employee class-action waivers might violate federal labor law. So the issue is still in doubt.