Nine Employees May Be Sufficient to Constitute a Class -- Hendershot v. Ready to Roll Transportation, Inc.

To most people the term "class action" invokes an image of hundreds or thousands of people seeking a remedy against a large corporate defendant.   As a result, it never occurs to many small and mid-size businesses (or their workers) that they may be sued in a class action.  

However, in Hendershot v. Ready To Roll Transportation, Inc., the Second District Court of Appeal reminded lower courts that there is no fixed minimum number of employees necessary to constitute a certifiable class.  Rather, the test under California law is merely whether it would otherwise be "impracticable" to individually join all the employees with the same type of claim into the lawsuit.  

The requirement of Code of Civil Procedure Section 382 that there be ‘many’ parties to a class action suit is indefinite and has been construed liberally. No set number is required as a matter of law for the maintenance of a class action. Thus, our Supreme Court has upheld a class representing the 10 beneficiaries of a trust in an action for removal of the trustees. [¶] The ultimate issue in evaluating this factor is whether the class is too large to make joinder practicable. ‘Impracticality’ does not mean ‘impossibility,’ but only the difficulty or inconvenience of joining all members of the class.”

Based on this analysis, the lower court was found to have improperly denied class certification based on its finding that there would ultimately be only nine employees in the proposed class.

Courts have repeatedly recognized that class actions are a generally superior method for enforcing the Labor Code and collecting allegedly unpaid wages.  This is due to a variety of factors, including the economies of scale in pooling claims, avoiding redundant issues of proof, and overcoming the fear of retaliation by current employees.  

The Hendershot opinion is a timely reminder that employers should not jump to the conclusion that they are too small to be the target of a class action.  

 

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