Repost from SWtimes.com. It reads…
LITTLE ROCK — A divided Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a circuit judge’s decision to grant class-action status to a lawsuit alleging that employees of Arkansas veterans homes were required to work overtime hours without compensation.
The suit, filed in June 2013 by a group of nurses and nursing assistants who worked for the Fayetteville Veterans Home and the now-closed Arkansas Veterans Home in Little Rock, alleges that their employer, the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, often required the plaintiffs to work before and after their shifts and through their lunch breaks without overtime pay.
The plaintiffs claim that the department automatically deducted 30 minutes per day from their work hours for a lunch break, even if, as they say was often the case, they were not able to take a lunch break because of chronic understaffing.
The suit also alleges that the department did not allow the plaintiffs to report all the overtime hours they worked and did not respond to their frequent complaints about the alleged violations. The actions by the department violated the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act, the suit claims.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages equal to the amount of overtime pay they claim they were illegally denied during a period beginning three years before the suit was filed and ending on the date the case is resolved.
The Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs has denied the allegations.
A Pulaski County circuit judge granted class-action status for the suit in August 2014. The judge defined the class as “all hourly, nonexempt nurses and certified nursing assistants of Arkansas Veterans Home and Fayetteville Nursing Home who were employed by ADVA at any time within the three years prior to the filing of the case through the date of the final disposition of this action.”
The state attorney general’s office, representing the Arkansas Department of Veteran Affairs, appealed the ruling, arguing that it should be allowed to cross-examine each plaintiff and introduce specific evidence to refute each person’s claim, which would make a single class-action suit unwieldy.
In a 4-3 decision, the state Supreme Court sided Thursday with the plaintiffs.
“Certainly, ADVA should be permitted to defend as it sees fit, and the question is really more about how best to manage the case, something that the circuit court has broad discretion to determine,” Justice Robin Wynne wrote in the majority opinion.
Justice Rhonda Wood wrote in a dissenting opinion that the evidence presented at a hearing in circuit court on class-action status varied widely from employee to employee, and noted that two plaintiffs already have been dropped from the suit after it was discovered that they did not work more than 40 hours in a week.
“When a case turns on highly individualized inquiries that differ from class member to class member, as in this one, our precedent has been to hold that the class-certification requirements are not satisfied,” Wood wrote in the dissenting opinion.
Justices Karen Baker and Josephine Hart joined in the dissent.
– Source HERE