Applebee’s Employees—Will a Class Action Be Permitted?

A number of present and former employees of Applebee’s restaurants in New York state have filed a class action under New York law. The case, Roach v. T.L. Cannon Corp., is before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals for determination whether a class action will be certified. Scott Michelman discusses the case and the significance of the class action question.

Scott Michelman

Scott Michelman

Michelman explains that the employees in the lawsuit have been denied several rights to which they are entitled under NY law. One of these practices was to charge employees for rest break time whether the employees actually take the breaks. Another issue is so-called “spread time,” where an employee who works a ten-hour day is entitled to an additional hour of pay. The employees were denied the spread time hour.

This case involves only New York employees, Michelman says, covering 53 stores throughout the state.

The class action question relates to the district court’s refusal to certify a class because of the court’s understanding of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, decided by the Supreme Court in 2013. In Comcast, the Court refused to certify a class in an antitrust case because the measure of damages proposed by the plaintiffs was too complicated.

In the Roach case, the Comcast problem is not present. The measure of damages is not complicated, Michelman opines. The trial court’s decision, if it is allowed to stand, would be very damaging to class action cases in the future. The disagreement about class certification is the crux of the appeal.

Scott Michelman is an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, in Washington, D.C. His career as a public interest litigator has spanned a broad range of social justice and civil rights issues, including access to the courts, consumers’ rights, discrimination and selective enforcement, freedom of speech and press, habeas corpus rights, immigrants' rights, judicial secrecy, police misconduct, political protest, post-September 11 abuse of executive power, religious freedom, the rights of medical marijuana patients, sentencing law, and unreasonable search and seizure. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

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