Frequently Asked Questions for Employee Class Actions

Q: What is a class action?

A class action is a group lawsuit where numerous individuals with a common complaint take action together.

A class action is brought by one (or a few individuals), known as the “representative plaintiff”, on behalf of a larger group of class members.

Class actions were created to improve access to justice. Your individual claim may be too small to make it worth going to court by yourself. Combining forces with others in a similar situation makes it possible to enforce your rights.

Q: Who is the representative plaintiff?

The representative plaintiff is the individual who volunteers to start the lawsuit on behalf of the whole class of individuals. This is the individual who will have his or her name on the case, as in Smith v. Megacorp Inc.

The representative plaintiff plays an active role in the class proceeding and has extra duties that class members do not have. Representative plaintiffs take a role in instructing counsel, and may be asked to testify. At the end of a successful case, the court may award an honorarium to recognize the contribution of the representative plaintiff, sometimes $10,000 to $20,000, on top of whatever the representative would get for being a member of the class.

Q: When is a class action the best course of action?

When there are multiple plaintiffs with the same complaint, known as the common issues, it may be more cost effective to have the action dealt with as a class action. Proceeding as a class action allows the facts to be proven in one lawsuit rather than multiple suits.

Proceeding by way of a class action is meant to simplify the litigation and encourage similar decisions for similar claims, while preserving judicial resources, improving access to justice and reducing costs.

 Q: When does an action become a class action?

In Ontario, a class action must be certified by the Court as a class action.

In order to become certified, the following requirements must be met:

  • The pleadings must disclose a cause of action
  • There must be an identifiable class
  • There must be common issues
  • There is a suitable representative plaintiff who has a plan to conduct the litigation
  • A class action is the preferable procedure for the litigation

If the judge believes that a class action is the preferable way to proceed with the group claim, he or she will issue an order certifying the action as a class action. 

Q: How do I join the class action?

Ontario is an “opt-out” jurisdiction, meaning that if a person falling within the definition of a certified class does not opt out, that person automatically will be a part of the class.

Q: What if I don’t want to be a part of the class action?

The class members are notified of how to opt out of a class proceeding and when the deadline is for doing so.

Q: If I don’t opt-out, do I have to do anything to help with the class action?

While we work primarily with the representative plaintiff, you may be asked to provide written evidence in the form of an affidavit to assist. There is no obligation for you to provide an affidavit.

Q: I have documents that may help with the class action, who do I send them to?

A copy of any relevant document would be attached to the affidavit as exhibits. Please contact Monkhouse Law directly to discuss.

Q: What happens after certification?

If a settlement is not reached, the action will proceed towards a trial of the common issues before a judge.

Q: How long does it take for a class action to be resolved?

There is no set timeframe. At Monkhouse Law we work to move the case forward diligently, but it can take a considerable period of time to reach a final resolution before a Judge.

The courts also use their powers in case management to assist with moving the case forward to protect the interests of class members.

Q: What if the case settles? How do I know if it’s a fair settlement?

Class counsel have a duty to the class and must keep their interests paramount when engaged in settlement discussions.

Any settlement must be approved by a Judge to ensure that it is “fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of those affected by it”. The courts consider many factors in approving or denying a settlement.

Q: When can I expect to be paid from the class action if it wins?

A “payout” or award for damages is never certain and cannot be predicted.

The action may settle or proceed to trial, where the judge will determine the amount of damages that class members are entitled to, if any.

Q: Who pays Monkhouse Law’s (or other Class Counsel’s) legal fees?

Monkhouse Law and the representative plaintiff enter into a contingency agreement, where counsel agrees to fund the litigation and recover fees and disbursements only in the event of success in the litigation (either judgment at trial or by way of settlement).

Legal fees are then paid out of the settlement or judgment proceeds as approved by a judge.

The representative plaintiff and class members would never be responsible for fees to Monkhouse Law if the claim is unsuccessful. There may be other costs involved in litigation, such as the expense of hiring expert witnesses. Sometimes, members of a class who are eager to see their case move forward may volunteer to contribute toward such costs. Where appropriate, and with approval of the class representative, Monkhouse Law will seek financial support from the Law Foundation of Ontario or private sector sources that fund class actions in exchange for a share of the award.

Q: How can I stay updated on the case?

If the action is certified as a class action, you will receive a notice from the court.

This notice will explain the nature of the case and provide you with the opportunity to opt-out of the action. You do not need to do anything to take part in the action.

General information and updates will be posted on Monkhouse Law’s website.

Why Monkhouse Law?

Monkhouse Law has achieved an impressive record of success for employment law claims for individual plaintiffs. We are now bringing our creative insights to employment law to class actions. Learn more about our team of employment lawyers or contact us today.