A fresh Supreme Court term has kicked off, with a new slate of cases awaiting the Court’s decision. Among these cases are several that the automotive industry should keep an eye on, as they impact the law in ways that will affect how industry members do business. Over the next few posts, Dashboard Insights will preview these cases, and explain why counsel for the automotive industry should keep an eye on these developments.
The preview leads off today with one of the major themes of this Term: class actions.
Whether it decides to take the opportunity or not, the Court has a chance this Term to reshape the law applying to class actions. Among the cases in which the Court will decide how stringently to apply the requirements for class action certification is Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146.
In Tyson, workers at a food-processing facility filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and a class action under Iowa wage laws, based on alleged violations of overtime rules when they were not paid overtime for the time they spent donning and doffing protective equipment. The trial court certified the FLSA collective action and the Iowa state law class action, and tried the actions together, resulting in a plaintiff verdict, affirmed by the Eighth Circuit. Tyson Foods now asks the Supreme Court to decide whether the statistical aggregating techniques used to establish class-wide liability and damages were valid under either the FLSA or class action rules, and whether the FLSA collective action or class action was proper when the case likely included hundreds of plaintiffs who were not improperly denied overtime and thus suffered no injury. This case, like the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes case four years ago, has the potential to shape just how homogenous a group of plaintiffs needs to be to bring a collective or class action under the FLSA or federal class action rules—something that any large employer or producer of consumer goods should watch closely.