What is A Class Action?
Typically employment law related class actions are made in the Federal Court of Australia under Part IVA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.
A class action (also known as a representative proceeding) is an action brought by one or more persons on behalf of a class of people (group members) who:
- Individually have similar claims against the same person (individual, company, business etc, often called the ‘Respondent’); and
- The claims arise out of similar or related circumstances with a common issue of law.
Applicants do not need to seek the individual consent of group members prior to commencing a class action on their behalf. Therefore, group members may be employees who are affected by the proceedings but may initially be unaware of the proceeding.
The ‘group members’ must be a minimum of seven employees affected by the claim.
Class Actions are conducted on an ‘opt-out’ basis, meaning employees affected by the claim will be automatically included in the class of group members unless they opt-out.
If a group member does not opt out, they will be bound by any settlement or judgement made in the class action. On the assumption that the class action is successful, each group member may be entitled to the benefit of any order or judgment made. If unsuccessful, the group members will no longer be able to pursue the same claims against the Respondent.
A unique feature of class action proceedings is that, once commenced, the parties cannot settle without the approval of the Court. This means that if a settlement or agreement to discontinue the proceedings occurs outside the Court, it will be subject to approval.