Lawyers Touting Overtime Case Went Too Far With Web Solicitation

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By Jon Steingart

Lawyers for a group of former Democratic party organizers who are suing for overtime pay must revise statements about the lawsuit on their firm’s website, a federal judge ordered ( Katz v. DNC Servs. Corp. , E.D. Pa., No. 2:16-cv-05800, motion to strike consent forms granted 9/28/17 ).

Swartz Swidler, LLC of Cherry Hill, N.J., which represents the organizers, set up a webpage describing the case and inviting other potential plaintiffs to sign onto the lawsuit filed against the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. But parts of the text require revision to avoid “unbalanced and misleading statements” to people who may be interested in joining the case, Judge C. Darnell Jones II of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered Sept. 28.

Lawyers often list current or past cases on their websites in an effort to recruit clients. The judge’s order spells out guidelines for ensuring accuracy and honesty in these efforts.

Courts facilitate opting into a lead plaintiff’s Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit by approving disclosures and supervising notification. This process occurs after a judge certifies the case as a collective action, which is a procedure for litigating FLSA cases with multiple plaintiffs that’s similar to a class action.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party asked Jones to order the organizers and their lawyers to stop recruiting plaintiffs without the court’s approval.

‘Objectionable’ Statements

One statement Jones called “objectionable” said “if you do not join, you will not be entitled to and will not be able to receive any money in this lawsuit as a result of any federal wage violations committed by the DNC or the state democratic parties.” This sentence should have made clear that someone who doesn’t join could hire separate counsel and file a separate lawsuit, Jones said.

Jones ordered Swartz Swidler to notify plaintiffs who joined the case about the revision and offer them an opportunity to back out.

“We appreciate that the judge recognized that we have a right to have a website that provides information to putative class members and allows people to opt in,” Justin Swidler, a partner with the firm, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 29.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Sept. 29. A lawyer for the party referred Bloomberg BNA to a second party lawyer who wasn’t immediately available to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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