There are different types of wage hour cases – the way to join each is different.
Individual actions are where an individual employee brings their own wage hour case against the employer. An individual brings suit against a company in their own name, generally with the help of an attorney.
Collective actions are where one or more workers bring claims against an employer and other “similarly situated” employees are given notice and allowed to join a case by filing a short “opt-in” or “consent to sue” form.
Class actions are where one or more workers bring claims against an employer and other “similarly situated” employees are sent notice about the case. These individuals are “represented parties” who are part of the case unless they ask the Court to exclude them from the class. In a class action, class members are deemed to be part of the case until they file their “opt-out” forms.
The type of case determines what steps a worker must take to participate in the case.
Generally, in a collective action, individual workers must file a “Consent to Sue” form indicating their intention to be part of the case.
In class actions, generally a worker need not file anything to be part of the case, once a class is “certified” by the Court.
In a settlement, the terms of the agreement will define what steps a worker must take to receive benefits from the settlement.
Joining a collective action asserts your rights and means that you will be governed by the result, whether it is favorable or unfavorable.
Generally, workers are not covered by the case until they join.
The statute of limitation continues to run and may bar some or all of a worker’s claim until they join.
Workers who do not join a case are free to bring their own case
Workers who opt-in to a collective action, or who are members of a class action, are considered Plaintiffs, but their interests are represented by the Named Plaintiffs who, along with class counsel, will make decisions about the case, including settlement.
Merely joining a case as a represented party does not place a worker’s name on a docket and will generally not result in their name being disclosed in a public filing in the case.
Being part of a case may mean that you will have some responsibility.
Discovery. Cases involve “discovery” which is the legal process whereby each side is permitted to discover facts and contentions raised by the other side. Discovery can be taken even from people who are not parties to a case.
Trial. The Judge or Arbitrator will decide who must testify at a trial. Even non-parties may be called to give testimony.
Workers who join a case are protected against retaliation for having joined.