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Frequently Asked Questions

Employment

What is Employment at Will?


Employment that is at-will can be terminated at any time, for any legal reason. Most employment relationships are at will. A small number of employees have contracts stating that they can only be fired for cause – these are generally the only individuals who are not employed at will. But at will employment cannot be terminated for an illegal reason.




What makes a termination "wrongful"?


Employers are allowed to fire people for bad, unfair, and wrong reasons and no reason at all. Even if you are fired for something you did not do, the termination is not necessarily “wrongful” under the law. To have a legal claim, an employer must make an adverse employment decision – fires, disciplines, or otherwise treats an employee differently – for an illegal reason. Some reasons are perfectly legal, such as poor performance, personality conflicts or preference for family members. Other reasons are not legal. A person cannot be subject to an adverse employment decision because of their race, national origin, color, age, gender, disability, or religion, complaints about unlawful acts, or use of health insurance benefits. If you want to know whether your termination was illegal, please contact us.





Class Actions

What is a Class Action?


A class action is a lawsuit where many people combine their similar complaints. This allows a single judge to hear all the concerns at the same time, and potentially resolve all the claims together. If the court agrees to treat the case a class action, all class members will share in any recovery. In a class action, one person, called the “Lead Plaintiff,” “Named Plaintiff” or “Class Representative” represents a group of others who suffered similar harm. Class action lawsuits often are filed when it would be impractical or prohibitively expensive for each person who was harmed to file an individual lawsuit, and they enable small shareholders or consumers to seek recovery from large corporations possessing much greater legal and financial resources. The typical class action takes at least 2-3 years to litigate, although the actual time it takes to resolve a case varies, depending on the complexity of the case, the issues involved and other factors.




What is a class?


In a class action, one or more person files a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group of people. The group of people the lawsuit represents is the class. When a lawsuit is filed, it will define the proposed class. Anyone who meets this definition will be known as a class member.




What is class certification?


Although a lawsuit may be filed and proposed as a class action, it is not a class action until the judge decides that it is appropriate to consider the class’s claims together. This is known as certifying the class or granting class certification.




What is a putative class action?


A putative class action is a lawsuit that was filed as a class action but has not yet been certified as a class action.




What is the difference between a class action and a collective action?


In class actions, all class members are included in the class unless they choose to "opt-out" of the case. In a collective action, however, class members must "opt-in" or "join" the case. Collective actions usually involve failure to pay overtime, failure to pay minimum wage or workplace discrimination. Only those employees who choose to "opt-in" to a collective action will be eligible to receive compensation if the lawsuit is successful.




What is the difference between a class action and a mass tort?


A mass tort is when many people file lawsuits on their own behalf. A class action is where one or more file a single lawsuit on behalf of many others. Mass torts usually arise in circumstances where class actions are inappropriate such as when many people suffer physical harm from dangerous drugs or medical devices.




What is a bellwether trial?


In a mass tort, a few cases are sometimes selected to be tried to predict the outcomes of the others. The attorneys learn the strengths of their legal arguments and gain insight into how juries could rule. While the results of the bellwether trials are not binding on other plaintiffs, the attorneys may use the results of the bellwether cases to negotiate a settlement.




What happens if you win a class action?


If the plaintiffs in a class action win damages at trial or negotiate a favorable settlement, typically a fixed amount of money is paid into an account to be distributed equally to the class members. Sometimes class members will be required to make a claim to receive their share of the recovery. If so, notice of the requirements will be sent to all known class members.




What is a common fund?


A common fund is a pool of money created to provide compensation to class members. A common fund may be established because of a settlement or an award of damages at trial. Each class member may be required to file a claim to receive their share of the common fund.




What happens to leftover settlement money?


Sometimes, after class members are paid, there is still money in the common fund, because class members did not submit claims or did not cash their checks. Sometimes, the remaining money will be returned to the company being sued, it may be distributed to remaining class members or it may be donated to charity. Donations of litigation funds to charity is called a cy pres award. Typically, the charity is one whose mission aligns with the subject matter of the case. For instance, in a case involving unpaid overtime, the remaining funds may be dedicated to an organization that helps further workers' rights.




What is the fairness hearing in a class action?


If the parties reach a settlement, the Judge will hold a hearing to determine if the settlement is “fair, reasonable and adequate.” If any class members object to the terms of the proposed settlement, the judge will consider their objections and issue a ruling either approving the proposed settlement or rejecting it.




How do class action lawyers get paid?


If a class action is successful, the attorneys representing the class members usually receive a percentage of the amount that is recovered by the lawsuit. Fees can range between 15 and 33% of the total amount recovered. The judge presiding over the class action must review the attorneys’ request for fees to make sure it is reasonable.




What happens if you lose a class action?


If a class action is dismissed or a jury rules in favor of the defendant, both the person who filed the suit and the class members will not be entitled to any settlement money and the person who filed the suit will be unable to bring another lawsuit concerning the issues in the case. In addition, the Court may award the defendant its costs of the suit. “Costs” typically consists of the costs of transcripts, filing fees and copies. It is important to understand whether an adverse cost award will be paid by the attorneys or will be expected to be paid by the named plaintiffs.




Can I get fired for participating in a class action lawsuit against my employer?


If you participate in a class action against your employer alleging workplace discrimination or violations of wage and hour laws, federal law protects you against retaliation by your employer.




What are the costs and expenses for me to participate in a class action?


In a class action, costs and expenses of the lawsuit are usually advanced by the law firm representing the plaintiffs. If there is a favorable resolution the attorneys will ask the court to allow reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and attorneys’ fees -- usually a percentage of the total recovery.




Why should I work with Zigler Law Group?


Zigler Law Group’s attorneys have focused their practice on class action litigation for more 20 years, and has represented consumers, whistleblowers and businesses as plaintiffs in high-stakes litigation in all manner of class actions.