July 22, 2019

July 22, 2019

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Massachusetts SJC Weighs in on Wage Act Class Actions and Offers of Judgment

On Friday April 12, 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court confirmed that plaintiffs seeking to bring class actions asserting Massachusetts Wage Act (“Wage Act”) violations must meet the certification standards set by Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (“Rule 23”), and cannot avail themselves of a lower bar to class certification. In Gammella v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc., plaintiff Felice Gammella argued that the Commonwealth’s Wage Act (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 149, §§ 148, 150) provides its own standard for class certification, separate and distinct from the more rigorous Rule 23. Siding with the defendant, the SJC held that Wage Act claims must be brought under Rule 23. The Wage Act’s language conferring the right for employees to bring claims individually or on a class basis does not, in itself, provide a lower certification standard. Rather, the court held, the language merely authorizes employees seeking certification to proceed under Rule 23. Accordingly, employees seeking to certify classes asserting Wage Act claims will still have to meet the usual Rule 23 requirements.

Also in front of the SJC was the question of whether a Rule 68 offer of judgment to a single named plaintiff in a potential class action can moot the plaintiff’s claim if the plaintiff both rejected the offer and notified of his intent to appeal a denied class certification motion. Weighing in on the issue for the first time, the SJC joined the majority of courts and held that a plaintiff’s claim would not become moot in that scenario.

The SJC ultimately reversed the superior court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for class certification, reversed the grant of the defendant’s motion to dismiss for mootness on the Rule 68 point, and remanded the case for further proceedings.

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Mark W Batten, Labor & Employment Attorney, Proskauer Law Firm
Partner

Mark Batten is a Partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Class/Collective Action Group, resident in the Boston office.

Mark represents employers nationwide at all stages of complex employment litigation, including class and collective actions on wage and hour matters and discrimination claims. Ranked by Chambers USA, Mark is hailed as “a fabulous lawyer, handling interesting and complex cases.” Clients “highly recommend him to anyone seeking litigation counsel in the Boston area,” as well as note “he is...

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Samantha L. Regenbogen, Labor & Employment, Proskauer Law Firm
Associate

Samantha Regenbogen is a law clerk in the Labor & Employment Department. 

Samantha was a summer associate in Proskauer's New York Office, and was involved in drafting briefs and memorandums for both wage and hour class actions and single-plaintiff discrimination cases. Before joining Proskauer, Samantha was an intern with the Enforcement Unit of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, where she investigated complaints and drafted dispositions.

During her time at Harvard Law School, Samantha served as a board member of the Women's Law Association and was a cast member and artistic director of the HLS Parody.

617-526-9746
Thomas Fiascone Labor Employment Attorney
Associate

Thomas Fiascone is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department.

Tom earned his J.D. from Boston College Law School, where he was a senior editor and staff writer on the Boston College Law Review. During law school, Tom served as a judicial intern in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and was a tutor in BC Law’s Academic Success Program.

Prior to law school, Tom was a paralegal in Proskauer’s Labor and Employment Law Department.

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