CHICAGO — A group of current and former workers at a Matteson-based landscaping contractor was recently granted class certification on claims that the company took improper deductions from workers' paychecks for uniforms.
U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee granted the plaintiffs’ case in a lawsuit brought in Chicago federal court alleging Clarence Davids and Company recovered the cost of uniforms by taking deductions from employee paychecks without written authorization, as required by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.
The suit was originally filed in 2015 by four former workers who performed maintenance and landscaping work for the company.
The defendant acknowledged that, over time, it had several different policies regarding uniform deductions and, at some point, employees were not required to fill out forms accepting this deduction, according to the ruling.
In 2013, the company started having all employees fill out standard forms for the deductions, the defendant said.
The plaintiffs allege the forms required for returning, new and seasonal employees in 2013 caused a level of confusion and thus were not representative of the guidelines outlined in by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. The main issues before the court centered on which employees qualified to be included in the class and time period during which they were employed by the company.
In the ruling, Lee said the plaintiffs met the burden for class certification for their claims pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides the initial requirements of all federal class-action suits.
The defendant argued that not all of the proposed members of the class action shared a common claim and therefore did not meet the “commonality” prerequisite of Rule 23.
Lee rejected that claim, finding the different claims presented would only play a part in determining the potential amount of damages awarded to the individuals in question, and does not absolve the company of liability.
“As the Seventh Circuit (U.S. Court of Appeals) has made clear, the fact that 'individualized remedies and damages may have to be determined for each plaintiff or perhaps for subclasses of plaintiffs... does not prevent certification the class,'” the judge said.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Billhorn Law Firm and the Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project. The defendant is represented by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.