Articles Posted in Class actions

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A group of black United Airlines employees have sued the company for race discrimination. The employees allege that United Airlines utilizes uncontrolled subjective criteria to select applicants for promotions. The suit also alleges that United operates two tracks for the promotion of employees — one for minorities and one for non-minorities. These practices allegedly work to disproportionately deprive promotions to black employees.

“We have endured a habitual, longstanding pattern of discriminatory behavior at the hands of United Air Lines,” Terry Haynie, a United pilot said in a statement. United denies that it has discriminated against the plaintiffs and says it plans to fight the lawsuit.

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Today, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court that covers Maine and other New England states, held that a class action against the Caritas Christi hospital network could go forward. The plaintiffs in the case allege that Caritas failed to pay them, and employees like them, for work performed during meal breaks, for work performed before and after shifts, and for time spent at training sessions.

Caritas successfully persuaded the trial judge to dismiss the lawsuit because it argued that the complaint the plaintiffs filed was not detailed enough. The First Circuit rejected this argument recognizing that in this case, like most employment cases, the employer likely possessed information that the plaintiffs will need to prove their case. The court also recognized that it is sometimes difficult for plaintiffs to predict what facts a judge will find essential to a valid complaint. So, the court advised the trial judge, when the case comes back before him, to provide the plaintiffs an explanation of what information must be added to the complaint.

This case is an example of a growing trend. Employers have increasingly tried to get cases against them thrown out on technicalities rather than fighting them on the merits. If you have an employment case, you should seek representation from an experienced employment lawyer who is familiar with these tactics and has experience fighting them.

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Today, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing the decision of the trial court, held that a class of black stockbrokers who work, or used to work, for Merrill Lynch could continue to pursue their race discrimination case against Merrill Lynch as a class action. The black stockbrokers allege that Merrill Lynch’s policies and procedures (1) for assigning stockbrokers to teams and (2) for distributing the accounts of stockbrokers who leave Merrill Lynch both have an unlawful disparate impact on them in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”). The Seventh Circuit held that Merrill Lynch’s policy of allowing stockbrokers, instead of supervisors, to select who to include on their teams could violate Title VII if the policy disadvantages the black stockbrokers at a statistically significant rate and the policy is not justified by “business necessity.” Likewise, it held that Merrill Lynch’s policy and procedure for assigning stockbrokers to teams could adversely affect black stockbrokers’ chances of receiving the accounts of stockbrokers who leave the firm.

The Court noted that this is a “disparate impact” case, which means that the black stockbrokers do not have to prove that Merrill Lynch intentionally discriminated against them because of their race. Instead, they only have to prove that the policies and procedures they’ve challenged adversely affect them at a statistically significant rate. If they meet this burden of proof, they will prevail unless Merrill Lynch can prove that the challenged policies and procedures are justified by business necessity. The Court believed that these issues could be resolved in one case, by one court, on a class-wide basis.

The Court’s decision permits the black stockbrokers’ case to go forward as a class action. Thus, if Merrill Lynch does not now settle the case with the black stockbrokers, the trial court will determine if the challenged policies and procedures adversely affected the black stockbrokers at a statistically significant rate and, if so, whether they are justified by business necessity.

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled today that corporations may not force employees to give up their right to bring class actions to enforce their rights.

In recent years, many corporations in the United States have required employees to give up their Constitutional right to use the American court system to hold them accountable when they violate their employees’ rights. Many corporations require applicants to sign these arbitration agreements before they’ll hire them and sometimes corporations will fire employees unless they sign them. Under these arbitration agreements, instead of a jury or a judge, corporations require employees to bring their claims to arbitration where, usually, one individual paid by the corporation decides the case. Some corporations have gone one step further and, through these arbitration agreements, have taken away employees’ rights to bring class actions–and that is what the NLRB’s decision forbids.

The NLRB ruled today that arbitration agreements which strip employees of their right to bring class actions violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA requires corporations to let employees engage in “concerted activity.” The NLRB decided that employees engage in concerted activity when they band together to bring a class action to vindicate the rights of them and their co-workers. Thus, under the NLRA, a corporation cannot require its employees to give up their right to bring a class action.

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Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck a major blow to a class action sex discrimination lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart when it decided that the case could not continue as a class action. This was the largest class action employment discrimination case in history. Experts have now begun debating the likely effects that this case will have on class action employment discrimination lawsuits in the future. Interestingly, some experts seem to believe that the case will result in more class action lawsuits because the case will require employees to band together into smaller groups–and bring separate class action lawsuits. That is exactly what the lawyers for the women of Wal-Mart are contemplating. Some also think that large employers will attempt to mimic Wal-Mart’s policy of giving store managers almost unbridled discretion to make personnel decisions in order to insulate the company from a large company-wide class action lawsuit.

If you are a current or former female employee of Wal-Mart from Maine, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to determine if this case affects your rights.

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