21
Aug2023
Class Action Lawyer

Decoding Legal Jargon: The Difference Between Class and Collective Action

  • By Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC
  • 96

Class Action Lawyer

When it comes to taking legal action against companies or corporations, it’s easy to feel powerless as an individual. However, if you and a group of people have all been similarly wronged, you may have the option to take legal action together through a class action or collective action lawsuit. Class action and collective action lawsuits can hold larger entities accountable for their actions in court, but there are key differences between the two types of proceedings. In this post, our friends at éclat Law explore those differences, common types of class and collective action suits, and the steps you should take if you’re considering filing one.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is brought by one or more people as representatives of a larger group of people who have suffered similar harm or damages. These lawsuits are well-suited for cases where individual claims may be too small to be economically viable or where multiple claims could otherwise overload the court system. In a class action lawsuit, all members of the group must have some sort of shared wrong caused by the same defendant or defendants.

In this type of lawsuit, the court will decide for the class as a whole. The decision is binding on all members of the class, including those who have not been made aware of the proceedings. As such, courts must ensure procedural protections are provided to all parties involved and that any relief awarded is equitable and just. 

What is a Collective Action Lawsuit?

Collective action lawsuits are like class actions in that they involve multiple people with similar grievances, but collective action suits are limited to labor and employment disputes under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Generally speaking, a collective action lawsuit is filed by current or former employees against their employers for matters such as unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations. Besides the type of complaint, there is one fundamental difference: the members of a collective action lawsuit must actively opt-in to the lawsuit, whereas in a class action lawsuit, individuals are part of the class unless they opt out.

Common Types of Class/Collective Action Lawsuits

People can suffer damages in many ways, so there is a wide variety of class action lawsuits that a group of plaintiffs can bring. Some common types include product liability, securities fraud, consumer protection, antitrust, employment discrimination, environmental, medical, civil rights, and bank fraud.

Common collective action lawsuits involve wage and hour claims against employers, overtime pay violations, and discriminatory hiring, pay, and promotion practices. These complaints are all related to employment law because by nature, a collective action lawsuit is meant to be filed under the FLSA.

Steps to Filing a Class/Collective Action Lawsuit

Filing a class or collective action lawsuit requires legal expertise, as well as a strong team of experienced advocates. Here are the steps you should take if you’re considering filing one:

  1. Consult with Experienced Counsel
    First and foremost, you should retain an experienced attorney for your class or collective action lawsuit.
  2. Determine if You Have a Valid Claim
    Your attorney can help you determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate or whether you should join an existing lawsuit.
  3. Gather Evidence
    Strong evidence is critical for success in either a class or collective action lawsuit.
  4. Seek Out Additional Plaintiffs
    If the court allows you to proceed with a class action lawsuit, you will need to search for other individuals who may have been harmed.
  5. File Your Complaint
    Once you have filed your complaint, you will need to notify all parties involved and prepare for the court proceedings.

Class and collective action lawsuits are powerful tools for bringing about justice for a group of people who have suffered similar harm. By pooling resources and sharing the cost of litigation, plaintiffs can mount a more robust legal challenge than they could individually. However, such lawsuits require diligent and experienced legal representation. If you think you may be entitled to bring, or participate in, a class or collective action lawsuit, call an experienced attorney to ensure that your rights are fully protected.

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