I finally have gotten around to researching the somewhat elusive issue of whether individuals who join (or “opt-in”) to an FLSA collective action pursuant to Section 16(b) of the FLSA become parties to the entire lawsuit, including any state wage claims asserted in the original complaint. Here are three published opinions in which courts conclude that FLSA opt-ins join the entire action: Prickett v. Dekalb Cty., 349 F.3d 1294, 1297 (11th Cir. 2003) (individuals who opt-in to FLSA collective action join “the action as a whole”); Woodward v. FedEx Freight East, Inc., 250 F.R.D. 178, 190 n. 10 (M.D. Pa. 2008) (observing that the originating plaintiff “is free, of course, to pursue his [Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”)] claim individually, and any employees who opt in may likewise assert an MWA claim”); Jackson v. City of San Antonio, 220 F.R.D. 55, 60 n.40 (W.D. Tex. 2003) (“an opt-in plaintiff to the federal [FLSA] claim, opts in to the action as a whole, including both the federal and state claims”); Ansoumana v. Gristede’s Operating Corp., 201 F.R.D. 81, 90 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (“Section 216(b) gives [FLSA opt-ins] the same status as parties and, as parties, they should have the same rights as the named Plaintiffs to have their related claims adjudicated in the same forum.”).
I hope these cites will help overtime lawyers fend off the company’s argument that FLSA opt-ins only “join” the FLSA claims.