After nearly 8 years of litigation, the Court of Appeals of Oregon recently affirmed the decertification of a class of between 600 to 1900 former U.S. Bank employees who claimed they were not timely paid after their termination. Belknap v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, 235 Ore. App. 658 (2010). Following extensive discovery, the court found that the previously certified class of “former employees who gave 48 hours or more notice of intent to terminate employment and who were not paid timely pursuant to the statute” was properly decertified where, among other things: 1) the plaintiffs failed to present a viable trial plan; 2) individual questions of facts would require numerous witnesses to be called; 3) in virtually all cases, the resolution of one individual’s factual issues would have no impact on resolving another plaintiff’s claim; and 4) the court could not conceive of a subclass that would eliminate these problems.
The bottom line: This case illustrates that while courts may be initially willing to certify an extensive wage class, an employer’s ability to demonstrate the immense difficulty in actually trying such a case can be an extremely persuasive tool in decertification briefing.