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Pay discrimination in the workplace:
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Class actions

What are class actions?


Class actions are civil actions brought by one or more individuals on behalf of themselves and "all others similarly situated" (or equivalent language).  In a sex discrimination class action, there might be several “named plaintiffs,” or individuals whose names appear on the lawsuit.  These individuals are acting in behalf of a larger group (e.g. all women in a company who have been subject to the same discriminatory actions or policies.)


How do I know if I can be part of a class action?


You may not know whether you can be part of a class action when you first experience sex discrimination at work.  If it is happening to other women, there may be a basis for a class action, but you must learn about it first.  You may be working for a company where other women in different locations are having the same experience.  One of the goals of the Sex Discrimination at Work project is to maintain a database of companies about whom we receive complaints, and introduce women who think they may have a claim to other women in the same circumstances.


If I become a member of a class action in a case facilitated by NCWO, will it cost me any money out of pocket?


Probably not.  Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they are awarded legal fees when cases are successfully litigated or settled.  These fees are usually a percentage of the awards paid by the defendant companies.  As an example, if a case settled for $10 million awarded to the plaintiffs in the class, attorney’s fees might be $2.5 million, leaving $7.5 million to be distributed to the plaintiffs.  Attorney’s fees vary by case, and are set by judges.


How long does a class action suit take?


Class action suits are usually measured in years, not months.  It can take anywhere from two to 10 years for a class action suit to be successfully litigated or settled.


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