In unpaid overtime, minimum wage, and other FLSA cases, the plaintiff has the right to file the case as a collective action, for her own benefit, and also for the benefit of all other similarly situated employees. Preliminary collective certification should be liberally granted.
For example, on November 26 of this year a court granted collective certification of a plaintiff’s claims over the objections of the defendant. In the case of Shanggang Feng vs. Kelai Corp., pending is New York City, the plaintiff asked for condition certification, for a list of all other potential employee claimants, and to send notice of the case to all such people. The defendant argued against this, but the court nevertheless ordered that a notice could be sent to others, though the notice would have to acknowledge that the defendants denied all liability, and claim that their employees were all paid properly.
The court also ordered the defendant to provide a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet including all personal contact details, and dates of employment, for all non-exempt and non-managerial employees employed at any time since the end of 2015. The plaintiff was authorized to send a notice to each person on that list.
This is one example of many (including by this firm) of cases in which a single employee who files a claim for unpaid overtime or unpaid wages is able to bring a case that vindicates the rights of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of other workers. These case are brought as collective actions (not class actions) when they are brought under the FLSA alone, which makes for a simpler certification process. In such cases the plaintiff is typically also paid a fee for her role in bringing the claim, since service was performed by that person for the whole class of people.