Questions about class action lawsuits

I know almost nothing about the US legal system, so I’m hoping some of the smart people here can enlighten me in a general way about a specific question. Let’s say I work for a company where a specific group of employees brought a class-action lawsuit against their employer. For whatever reason, no other groups of employees within the company were invited to join in. The lawsuit is settled out of court (in employees favor), which is when everyone else finds out about it. Other groups of employees feel that the same grievance applies equally well to them. Do they have to file their own separate lawsuit and go through the same process? Is the door closed on them for any reason (can’t sue for the same reason twice or something?), or would it be easier now the first lawsuit settled?

This isn’t legal advice and I’m no class-action guy by any stretch. This is mostly going off my memory of law school and the bar exam. If you want actual advice, hire a lawyer.

First off, I assume that it’s pretty clear that you and your friends aren’t in the class, right? Like, for example, maybe the employer was accused of discriminating against minorities, and you feel that your employer also discriminates against older employees, or something like that. Because if you could have been brought into the original class, I am pretty sure that the class representative and his or her lawyer have a duty to try to contact you about the suit.

Now, assuming you’re a separate class (but think you have a similar grievance), my assumption is that you’d have to file a new lawsuit. The old one shouldn’t hurt you, since you weren’t represented in that suit – in general, the only time you can’t sue someone “for the same thing twice” is when it was you who sued them the first time (I’m super-generalizing). OTOH, the old suit might not make it any easier to win, either. Since it was settled out of court, it was probably settled subject to confidentiality agreements, so you will probably have a hard time getting anything useful out of it. It’s good in the sense that you already know that the company recognizes its liability and is willing to settle. It’s bad in the sense that the company already paid one settlement and may not have funds to pay another (or may worry about an oncoming tide of suits and decide to just fight them all).

They’d file their own lawsuit. Or you can file your own lawsuit individually.

As usual, I pretty much agree with Rywill.

The reason is really important. I would recommend calling up the lawyers for the class plaintiffs. Ask them why you weren’t invited into the class and what your options are. They should be happy to answer your questions since you may be a potential client.