When the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) affirmed an order certifying the largest employment discrimination class action ever in the United States, Wal-Mart was left facing a class of up to 1.5 million members. Employers were left wondering just how big and powerful these opponents might get.
On December 6, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to a review. U.S. employers are hoping the Supreme Court’s decision will put more restrictions on employment class actions. Canadian employers will want to stay tuned. Class actions south of the border can inspire similar litigation in Canada.
The much-awaited appeal decision in Fresco v. CIBC was released in September. The appeal court declined to interfere with the original decision of Justice Lax. She had denied Dara Fresco’s bid to bring a class action against CIBC for unpaid overtime.
This is one of three high-profile cases we have been following, in which employees are seeking to bring class actions for millions of dollars in unpaid overtime. In any class action the one bringing the suit must show that there are common issues, the resolution of which will advance the litigation for everyone. It has become clear that the “common issues challenge” is very much alive when it comes to overtime claims.
Michael McCracken’s claim against Canadian National Railway (CN) recently got the go-ahead to proceed as a class action. The third in a trilogy of high profile overtime cases in Canada, McCracken v. Canadian National Railway Company brings the score to 2 to 1 for certification of the class action — at least in the first round. Appeals are in progress. So stay tuned.
All three cases involve federally regulated employers. The basic issue is entitlement to overtime pay under the Canada Labour Code (the Code). Fresco v. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Fulawka v. The Bank of Nova Scotia are “off the clock” cases — claims by non-managerial employees for unpaid overtime work. These were discussed in an earlier article in this newsletter.
As was noted in an earlier article here, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently certified a class action against the Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS). That lawsuit claims $300 million in unpaid overtime involving approximately 5,300 BNS sales staff: Fulawka v. Bank of Nova Scotia (Fulawka). Certification means the claims meet the requirements to use the class-action process. What does this decision mean for other similar claims?
A similar previous case, brought against another large bank, CIBC, had not met the certification requirements. It was ruled that that claim lacked the essential element of “commonality” in the situations of the employees in the proposed class: Fresco v. CIBC (CIBC). The breaches alleged in CIBC lacked the “systemic” nature required to justify certification.