In a 9 – 0 decision with major implications for employment class action lawsuits subject to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that once the limitations period for filing a lawsuit has run out, the opportunity to file a follow-on class action is over, even though the filing of a prior class action may have extended the limitations period somewhat for filing individual claims.

The Court’s opinion in China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh, No. 17-432 (U.S. June 11, 2018), written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, concludes that while the federal rules governing litigation procedures provide courts with a number of mechanisms to manage large lawsuits, “[w]hat the Rules do not offer is a reason to permit plaintiffs to exhume failed class actions by filing new, untimely class claims.”

Although the case did not arise in the employment context, it will have a significant impact on many employment-related class actions, since it closes the door to follow-on class actions after an initial class action has failed and filing time limits have expired. In a real-world example, the China Agritech case will likely shut down several of the regional class actions filed after the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes concluded that plaintiffs could not sue the company on a class-wide basis.

A copy of the Court’s decision in China Agritech is available here.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.