The Kentucky Supreme Court definitively answered the question of whether Kentucky’s wage and hour law permits cases to proceed as class actions today in McCann v. Sullivan University System. The short answer is “yes.”
Mary McCann, an admissions representative at Sullivan University, filed a lawsuit alleging that she was misclassified as an “exempt” employee and was not paid overtime to which she was entitled under Kentucky’s wage statute. McCann also sought to represent other Sullivan University employees who were also misclassified in a procedure called class certification. The Jefferson Circuit Court denied her motion to certify the class and McCann appealed. The Kentucky Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the class could not be certified. In reaching this decision, the Court of Appeals analyzed the language of the statute and determined that the statutory language excluded class actions for these types of claims.
Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. The Court held that unless the wage and hour statute provides “for a comprehensive, wholly self-contained process that prescribes each procedural detail of the cause of action” then the Kentucky Rules of Civil Procedure apply to the claim, including the rule that permits cases to be heard as class actions. The Court then analyzed the language of the wage and hour law and found that it did not contain the necessary “wholly self-contained process.” Absent that process, the Civil Rules applicable to all civil cases govern wage and hour claims – and those rules permit cases to be heard as class actions.
The importance of this decision to plaintiffs cannot be underestimated. Many wage and hour claims involve relatively small amounts of money – perhaps unpaid wages for an hour or two a week over the course of a few years. The small size of an individual claim compared to the high cost of litigation makes it financially impossible to pursue individual claims in the courts. Only when employees can band together to bring their claim in a class action does it become financially feasible to engage in litigation and to prevent employers from saving money by cheating their employees out of their hard earned wages.
Craig Henry PLC has served as class counsel and represents many Kentucky employees who have been cheated out of their wages. If you are required to work off-the-clock or your timecard is altered to show fewer hours than you actually worked, please call our office to discuss your situation.