Interview with: Heather Gatley,
Associate General Counsel and Head
of Global Labor and Employment,
Ryder System, Inc.
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How to Mitigate Class Action Suits - Interview: Heather Gatley, Ryder System, Inc. - Chief Litigation Officer Summit

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Heather Gatley who is Associate General Counsel and Head of Global Labor and Employment at Ryder System, Inc. and a speaker at the marcus evans Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2013 discusses effectively defending a company from class action litigations.

Join the 2015 Summit along with top Chief Litigation Officers and service providers in an intimate environment for a focused discussion of key new drivers shaping the legal industry today.
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How to Mitigate Class Action Suits - Interview: Heather Gatley, Ryder System, Inc. - Chief Litigation Officer Summit

  1. 1. Interview with: Heather Gatley, Associate General Counsel and Head of Global Labor and Employment, Ryder System, Inc. The number of employee class action suits is rising, so Chief Litigation Officers (CLOs) must be very aggressive in their defense, says Heather Gatley, Associate General Counsel and Head of Global Labor and Employment, Ryder System, Inc. “Plaintiffs’ attorneys are looking for companies that are willing to roll over and settle for large amounts of money just to keep legal fees down and avoid the disruption that class action lawsuits bring with them. What they do not anticipate are CLOs who are very aggressive in gathering data and making sound arguments against class certification on the front end,” she details. Gatley is a speaker at the marcus evans Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2013, in Amelia Island, Florida, September 8-10. How common are employee class action suits? Notwithstanding some recent favorable case decisions, class actions are still very common. Certain jurisdictions, such as California and Southern Florida, are hotbeds of activity for class action matters. Lawyers representing a group of employees get paid a percentage of the ultimate outcome, so they follow the dollars. They look for large class cases where they have the opportunity to make as much money in legal fees as a judge will support. The number of wage and hour class actions continue to rise and employers are now also seeing more systemic actions brought in a representative capacity by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other agencies. In fact, public company employers with large employee bases report handling four or five class or representative action matters per year. These matters can keep CLOs very occupied for years. How should CLOs position their companies to increase the chances of a successful outcome? It is critical for companies to proactively audit the areas that plaintiffs’ counsel are focusing on in any given year. In my world, that is wage and hour litigation, including meal and rest breaks, exemption/overtime issues, rounding time, off the clock work, etc. CLOS are well advised to ferret out risk areas on their own. Given the expense of defending (and often settling class action claims), fixing “grey” areas before a lawsuit is filed is almost always a sound financial decision. What is your definition of an effective defense strategy? Act fast to assess a case and then develop your exit strategy, whether it be to settle early or to defeat class certification, and execute that strategy. Management of the data is critical in setting up an aggressive defense strategy and too often companies do not understand their own data so they do not really understand the strengths and weaknesses in their own cases. Defense counsel and in-house lawyers should not wait for cases to unfold but instead need to be very aggressive and need to almost prosecute their defense. To do this, CLOS must have a good handle on the data, have assembled an effective internal team, and have developed a very clear picture of how the matter should end. I also believe that it is often very effective to agree early on with plaintiffs’ counsel as to what data will be shared by the parties rather than waiting around for endless (and broad) discovery to proceed pursuant to the rules of procedure. Class actions, of course, can be very damaging and disruptive to a corporate environment. Apart from the financial exposure, defending a class action can require the compilation and assessment of data residing in different systems over a period of years, and often involves interviews of many stakeholders and records custodians. In national class action employment litigation, I may need to understand when the employees started their jobs, the scope and responsibilities of their positions, as well as the details regarding their pay and hours worked. When dealing with 2,000 or 20,000 employees working all over the country, just gathering and analyzing this data can take months. Start early and move fast. What do CLOs overlook that puts their organization at risk? As stated above, it makes sense to conduct annual audits of areas that represent potential exposure. Where there is some exposure, it is almost always less expensive to affirmatively remedy the issue on the front end on your own terms than it is to rectify it on the back end through a class action lawsuit. It is also important to have your fingers on the pulse of employee morale. Most class actions are initiated after a single disgruntled employee seeks counsel. When large groups of employees feel that they are mistreated, underpaid or not valued, a plaintiffs’ lawyer can use that single employee to help build a class of employees who will seek collective relief. CLOs must partner with their HR peers to ensure positive employee morale and significant employee engagement. Even if a lawsuit is filed, CLOs can also minimize the expense and impact of that litigation by attempting to ensure that the potential participation rate will be low and perhaps securing a reversion in any settlement agreement. If current employees have good relationships with management, they are generally reluctant to participate in a class wide claim. Demonstrating this reality to plaintiffs’ counsel can go a long way in convincing counsel that the case is not ultimately going to be worth their time to pursue or that resolution on a single-plaintiff basis is better advised. How to Mitigate Class Action Suits
  2. 2. The Legal Network - marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional t r e n d s a n d b r e a k t h r o u g h innovations. Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited. About the Chief Litigation Officer Summit Fall 2013 This unique forum will take place at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida, September 8-10, 2013. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on litigation holds and preservation, global privacy programs, avoiding costly surprises and FCPA compliance. www.chieflitigationofficersummit.com Contact Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division Tel: + 357 22 849 313 Email: press@marcusevanscy.com For more information please send an email to info@marcusevanscy.com All rights reserved. The above content may be republished or reproduced. Kindly inform us by sending an email to press@marcusevanscy.com About marcus evans Summits marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit: www.marcusevans.com Upcoming Events European Corporate Counsel Summit - www.eccsummit.com IP Law European Summit - www.iplawsummiteurope.com IP Law Summit - www.iplawsummit.com To view the web version of this interview, please click here: www.chieflitigationofficersummit.com/HeatherGatley

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