The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a decision released today, ruled today that an order denying class certification is not an appealable final judgment. The case, Palmer v. Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, gives employers and other defendants in class actions, an important arrow in their quiver of defending against class action cases.
In Palmer, thirty-seven waiters or waitresses employed by Friendly’s, sought certification as a class to pursue their claims that their employer had ‘‘failed to pay servers the hourly, minimum wage mandated by General Statutes § 31-60 because the defendant unlawfully deducted ‘tip credits’
from servers’ wages’’ for work that was ‘‘non-service’’ in nature. The potential class included ‘‘all current or former servers’’ at the defendant’s forty-eight restaurants in Connecticut ‘‘against whose wages tip credits were subtracted.’’
According to the Court:
The plaintiffs’ complaint arose from the defendant’s alleged violation of § 31-62-E4 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, which governs the payment
of minimum wage for ‘‘[d]iversified employment within the restaurant industry . . . .’ The complaint
alleges that the defendant ‘‘failed to definitely segregate all of the time spent performing ‘non-service’ duties and nevertheless took a ‘tip credit’ with respect to most of the hours worked by [the plaintiffs] and the class members and failed to compensate them at the required full minimum wage for their entire shift.’
The Superior Court denied certification of the class and the Appellate Court found that such a ruling was non-appealable — a decision affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
I’ll look at the underlying wage issue another day, but for now, the Supreme Court’s decision will be applicable in all sorts of employment-type class actions filed in state court.
For employers, plaintiffs will not be able to use the threat of an immediate appeal for settlement purposes, while the employers will also have an extra incentive for defeating class certification. If that decision cannot be appealed until much later (including a verdict), much of the "value" of the class action will be diminished.