By SHRM Government Affairs
In September 2012, the Society for Human Resource Management joined with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Health Care Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and National Center for Assisted Living on submitting a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk. The Supreme Court will decide whether a case becomes moot when the lone plaintiff receives an offer from the employer that satisfies all of the plaintiff's claims.
In Genesis, the plaintiff, a nurse, sought relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for unpaid meal breaks on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees but no other employees joined the suit. The employer offered a settlement to pay all alleged unpaid wages as well as attorney’s costs, fees, and expenses as determined by the court. The employer then sought to dismiss the case since there was no longer a party with a personal stake in the litigation. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s dismissal and remanded the case to assess the possibility that Symcyzk’s attorneys could identify additional parties to join the suit.
Genesis HealthCare’s brief argues, in part, that once the employer has settled with the original plaintiff, any other potential claimants lack the “personal stake” necessary to maintain the suit in court. SHRM’s brief endorses Genesis HealthCare’s arguments and focuses on two additional arguments. First, the SHRM brief argues that, if left uncorrected, the decision will exacerbate the significant burden already placed on employers by an increasing wave of FLSA litigation. In addition, SHRM emphasizes that Congress designed the FLSA to include a strong government enforcement component allowing the government to enforce the FLSA’s provisions on behalf of employees reducing the need for the court to keep the case open for other potential claimants.
This case is important for the HR profession because of the tremendous increase in FLSA litigation which has grown by almost 300 percent in the past decade. Allowing courts to keep collective action cases open prevents employers from settling cases and controlling their litigation exposure.
Supreme Court Will Decide If Offer of Judgment Moots FLSA Collective Action, SHRM Online Legal Issues, July 2012
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