A class action may be maintained if, among other things, the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. As a preliminary matter, it is not completely implausible for plaintiffs brining a complaint pursuant to the Massachusetts Wage Act G.L. 149 § 148, to satisfy the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In a recent case, a class of independent contractors brought action against defendant Pepperidge Farm, Inc. who classified its distributors as independent contracts instead of employees contrary to the Massachusetts Wage Act. Pepperidge Farm moved to strike the class’ allegations that they were improperly characterized as independent contractors and were denied benefits and overtime compensation.
Pepperidge Farm argues the Wage Act demands an individual fact intensive analysis of the relationship between Pepperidge Farm and each independent contractor, thus violating the predominance requirement of Rule 23(b)(3). The court held that “since the complaint contains allegations that the various distributors engaged in uniform work activities… the Court cannot determine, at this time, that it is completely implausible for the distributors to satisfy Rule 23(b).”
Class actions in Wage Act claims have certain advantages for the class of independent contractors. This recent case aids independent contractors in satisfying an initial burden of certifying the class in a similar factual lawsuit.