This morning, in Genesis HealthCare v. Symczyk, the Supreme Court held that defendants in a Fair Labor Standards Act case can defeat the certification of a collective action by making an offer of complete relief to the named plaintiff before she obtains certification for the collective action. According to the court, the offer makes the case moot.
The decision is quite bad for plaintiffs in FLSA cases, which are mainly wage-and-hour cases. The practical effect is that defendants who have violated the rights of a large group of workers (say, by underpaying all of them) can avoid having to compensate everyone by simply "picking off" each individual worker as she files suit. Such a prospect makes obtaining relief for the whole group much harder, if not impossible. Today's decision could have implications for class actions also, which are similar to the special collective actions provided specifically for FLSA claims.