How-an-Employee-Class-Action-Begins-Part-1-of-2.jpg (4297×2317)There is no legal minimum to the number of people who can form a class-action suit against their employer or a larger organization, but it usually takes 40 or more wronged individuals to make a strong case and have your case accepted. The question is: When should you start seriously considering a class action lawsuit instead of a personal case against an abusive employer?

Workplace abuse can happen to anyone, and every employee should be able to defend their rights as a person and as a professional in the company. From payroll manipulation to privilege discrimination to a blatant disregard for employee safety, the fact of the matter is that employees almost never see it coming. Whether employer abuse begins suddenly (ex: reprisals for whistle-blowing) or it slowly dawns on you that you are being mistreated, most employees’ first instinct is to keep quiet and keep their heads down.

After all, you don’t want to lose your job, seem like a complainer, or make things worse. You may fear retaliation for speaking up or even second-guess your own objections. Maybe you take the issue to HR and they blow-off your problem, make excuses for the perpetrators, or even encourage you to cover up the abuses. Maybe it even turns against you and you’re considering quitting rather than making a big deal out of the issue. But what happens when you start to realize that it isn’t just a matter of one bad boss or an ill-fitting company culture? What if many of your coworkers are also suffering?

The Beginnings of an Employee Class Action – The Initial Complaint

While some employee class actions come together swiftly, as in the case of mass-firings or overwhelming safety violations, most happen far more slowly. It often begins with one person who has had enough and begins looking into what they realize is a problem. Let’s use the example of discriminatory raises and promotions to make the conversation simple, though your problem could be any number of widespread employer violations of trust and legal responsibility.

One person of a particular demographic that is not the company majority realized they have been passed over for a promotion or raise they worked hard for. They are annoyed and decide to rock the boat, just a little bit. Their supervisor blows them off or provides a clearly weak excuse for the reason, or even provides a condescending platitude. “You’re so much better at [X lesser tasks] than [coworker who was promoted].” At first, they think it is one bad manager, or one instance of favorites-playing.

A Pattern Emerges

The first person complains to another coworker that has been around longer who nods sagely and says that coworkers X, Y, and Z have had similar experiences, and that ex-employees Q and R left over it not long ago. This gets the initial person curious. They begin to dig deeper and a pattern emerges. Out there in the open, but unspoken and unaddressed, this company has been promoting people who meet certain demographic over others who do not, mostly disregarding performance and qualification. This usually stems from an inherent belief in the highest levels of management (and the managers they hired) that some people are naturally better than others.

They talk to coworkers X, Y, and Z who are also fed up, but may not have realized the troubles (and similarities) shared between them. While four people, or however many you find in your initial investigation, are not enough to start a class action; chances are the same employer has done the same thing to others that have yet to be discovered.

Realizing that there is systemic employee abuse in your workplace can be an upsetting discovery, but it’s not something you have to face alone. Not only will you build the support of fellow employees, but here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we have dedicated our practice to protecting employees from the abuses of large companies who think they can get away with anything. With your class action, we can help you hold your employer accountable for their abhorrent actions and bring these abuses to light for the unacceptable conduct they are.

Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article where we’ll talk about finding more members for your class action, choosing a primary defendant, and putting together a strong case against your employer.

[To be continued in Part 2]

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we specialize in protecting employees from the abuses of large companies who think they can get away with mistreatment just because they are large and have deep pockets. Let us defend your employee rights and help you get the justice and compensation you deserve for experiencing mistreatment at the hands of your employer.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986