If the abuse took place over the course of, say, 3 years, then the class representatives and their lawyers would reach out to all current and former employees who worked for the company during that period of time. Pay stubs, time sheets, W-2 records, and accounting data would be furnished for the investigation, and large businesses tend to keep this kind of information on hand for years, making discovery in the case easier.
As stated above, it is also much easier to determine the size of the class well in advance of the case due to the availability of tax data and company records.
If you receive a letter from a law firm informing you of your eligibility to join a class action, you should read the notice carefully and follow the instructions given. Most of the time, you will not have to speak directly to the firm representing the class in the case, but should talk to the class claims administrator to make your claim.
Receiving a notice of eligiblity for class action does not automatically entitle you to make a claim as part of the case. Nor are you required to make a claim if you have one. If you do not wish to be a part of the suit, then you must contact the participating firm or claims administrator and inform them of your desire not to participate and to forfeit any money owed you in the event of a settlement.
If you want to take part in the class action, then you should follow the instructions given on the notice and make your claim with the appropriate party. Unless you are contacted with a request to become a class representative, you will not be required to appear in court and only need to make a claim in order to secure your entitlement to any settlement money or awards.
Class Action Lawsuits
Class Actions in Employment Cases
According to a study published by the Judicial Council of California:
"Employment cases show the highest frequency of class certification activity and have the highest rate of classes that are certified as part of a classwide settlement agreement; [the] higher rate of certification in employment cases may be because the certification inquiry is more straightforward for employee classes, perhaps in part because these classes have characteristics that more easily satisfy the standards for certification. Specifically, employment class action cases are much more likely to specify a precise number in defining the class size thus facilitating the definition and identification of the class."
This means that class actions in cases of employment law are more likely to be successful, in trial and in a settlement out of court, than other types of cases. An employer, for instance, who regularly shorts employees' overtime pay, would be particularly vulnerable to class action because of the across-the-board nature of the offense, and the volume of recorded evidence to show the offense taking place.