Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp. (E.D. Cal. 10/30/13) — A Helpful Decision for Class Members Accused of “Claim Splitting”

Our firm currently is appealing from a district court holding that the purported rule against “claim-splitting” prohibits a worker who “opted-in” to a large FLSA collective action (seeking overtime pay) from subsequently pursuing a separate lawsuit alleging that the same employer made improper wage deductions under Illinois wage law. In doing some research, I recently came across Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., 2013 WL 5877788, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156588 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2021). Therein, a federal magistrate judge from the Eastern District of California held that the claim-splitting rule did not prevent a worker who was a class member in a class action lawsuit alleging unpaid work during meal breaks from filing his own similar (but not identical) meal break lawsuit. The decision is worth reading if you represent a class or collective member who wants to file his/her own lawsuit and gets caught up in the claim-splitting dilemma. The Rodriguez court even cites to some cases for the proposition that “the doctrine of claim splitting does not apply to class actions because class actions involve the representation of unnamed class members in abstentia.”

Another good decision in this regard is Beckerley v. Alorica, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132070 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 17, 2014). There, nine plaintiffs started a lawsuit seeking unpaid wages under the FLSA and various state laws. See id. at *2-4. Seven of the nine plaintiffs had previously opted-in to a nationwide FLSA action, called Lillehagen, against the employer. The employer sought to have these seven plaintiffs dismissed for improper claim-splitting. — PW

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