When there are large groups of people who believe they have the same claims in a lawsuit, court rules allow them to bring their claims together in one action. This is referred to as a class action lawsuit. There are very specific requirements in order for such a claim to be filed in court and for that claim to stay in court. One of those requirements is that the class definition be adequate. To put it another way, it must be easy for the court and for the parties to understand exactly who should be included in the class of people joining in the lawsuit. A recent class action lawsuit filed against an employer in Texas was not allowed to proceed because the definition of the class was inadequate.
White Glove Staffing, Inc. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas
In White Glove Staffing, Inc. v. Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, the federal court in Texas was asked to certify a class action case filed by food service employees of a staffing agency. According to the lawsuit, a staffing agency provided food service employees to a hospital pursuant to a contract. The agency and several of the employees claim that the hospital stipulated that only Hispanic workers be sent for the jobs. One African-American prep cook was rejected for placement because she was “not working out.” The staffing agency terminated the contract after the demand for Hispanic workers was made. The staffing agency joined in the lawsuit with several African-American employees who were either rejected for placement at the hospital or who claimed they would have been rejected.
The Inadequacy of the Class Definition
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit asked the court to certify a class of nearly 75 people who would have been able to work at the hospital was it not for its “Hispanics only” requirement. Specifically, the proposed class was “all employees of White Glove Staffing who would have been supplied to Defendants to be banquet servers, prep cooks, dishwashers, and set-up crews.” The court ruled that this definition would have been nearly impossible to discern because it required so many assumptions. First, the proposed definition assumed that the staffing agency and the hospital still had a contract. By the time the lawsuit was filed, the staffing agency had already terminated the contract.
There were other assumptions that complicated the matter, as well. The hospital may not have actually requested workers in the positions listed in the definition and the workers in the proposed class may not have actually been sent or been qualified, available and willing to work in those positions. For these reasons, the class was not certified.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!