An FLSA Class Action, Collective Action, or Individual Action: Which One Makes the Most Sense for My Unpaid Overtime Claim?

If your employer has denied you overtime pay that you earned, you potentially have several possible legal options. You can seek compensation individually, you can initiate a class action, or you can pursue a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Determining which avenue makes the most sense can be a complicated and nuanced legal determination, so make sure you get the advice you need from an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer before you start.

Earlier this month, one north Georgia nurse achieved an important success in her unpaid overtime case, successfully persuading the federal district court in Atlanta to approve her collective action.

The nurse was a Gwinnett County woman who worked as a “medical management nurse” for a major insurance company. Her main duty (along with the primary duty of several colleagues with various titles) centered on performing medical necessity reviews for the employer. That entailed “reviewing medical authorization requests submitted by healthcare providers against pre-determined guidelines and criteria for insurance coverage.”

According to her lawsuit, the employer treated her and the other nurses as exempt employees even though the work they performed was non-exempt work. That had a substantial negative effect on the nurse’s pay. Allegedly, she frequently worked more than 40 hours in a week, including one week in 2020 when she worked 60 hours, but never received any overtime compensation.

The employer knew (or should have known) about the nurse’s long hours, given the stringent productivity standards it demanded and the nurse’s complaints about long hours and heavy workloads, according to the complaint.

This nurse’s case sought relief for far more than just herself. The proposed collective in the nurse’s action would include all the nurses, nurse associates, and “other similarly situated” workers who did medical necessity reviews for the insurer in the last three years and who were treated as exempt employees.

Collective Actions vs. Class Actions: What’s the Difference?

As noted above, this case is an FLSA collective action, not a class action. Collective actions are similar to class actions with some noteworthy differences. One crucial dissimilarity is that potential members of a class must expressly “opt out” or else the outcome will be binding upon them. In a collective action, potential members must explicitly “opt in” to share in whatever recovery the case generates.

If you have a particularly strong individual case, it may make sense to forego participating in a collective action. The strength of your individual claims may allow you to secure a faster settlement or end up with a larger payout than would otherwise have been available as a member of the collective. Otherwise, participating in a collective action, with its strength in numbers and the relative simplicity of litigation spearheaded by the lead plaintiff (and the lead plaintiff’s attorneys,) may be a more advantageous route.

These kinds of decisions can be extremely complex. Whether you are contemplating filing a class or collective action, or are weighing opting into or out of a class or collective action, an experienced legal representative can offer you critical advice about what path makes the most given your specific circumstances. At the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert, our knowledgeable Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys are here to put their skills and experience to work for you to ensure your rights are protected and you get the best possible outcome. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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