Thursday, October 25, 2007, 4:17 PM

Workers Can Pursue Iowa Pay Claims

Meat processing plant workers who filed a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action for unpaid wages and overtime can proceed in the same lawsuit with a class action allegation that Agriprocessors Inc. violated the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law, a federal court in Iowa rules (Salazar v. Agriprocessors Inc., N.D. Iowa, No. 07-CV-1006-LRR, 10/22/07).

Denying the employer's motion to dismiss the state law allegations, Judge Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa says combining the state and federal allegations in the same lawsuit is appropriate and consistent with the purposes of the FLSA.

Reade finds that a lawsuit that combines the FLSA's opt-in procedure for federal claims and the opt-out process for class actions may be confusing for potential class members, but the court is "well-equipped" to handle the "unique procedural challenges." (205 DLR A-8, 2007; 205 DLR Text E-1, 2007) .

The court may believe it can explain this to the prospective plaintiffs, but from the vantage point of nearly 40 years of class action litigation, I can assert that few would-be claimants have any idea what a class notice means. The more typical class action - one in which, if the class is certified, everyone described in the class definition is included and will be bound by whatever happens - at least has the virtue of requiring little if any comprehension on the part of the individual. That's what the courts refer to as the "Book-of-the-Month Club" approach: if you don't take any action to opt out, you get whatever happens. But a Fair Labor Standards Act class is a collective proceeding, requiring those who want to try for a share of the recovery to opt in. This case will be a hybrid, with opt-outs for the state law claims and opt-ins for the federal ones. If I can't explain it any more clearly than that, I suggest the class members won't have a clue. Whatever.

Additional information from Employment Law360.


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