Judge decertifies class in suit against UnitedHealth subsidiaries alleging underpayment of consultants

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A Minnesota federal judge on Aug. 2 decertified a class-action lawsuit against two UnitedHealth Group subsidiaries, Optum and The Advisory Board, that alleged that the companies misclassified independent contractors and underpaid them.

U.S. District Judge David Doty granted the motion by UnitedHealth's subsidiaries to decertify the plaintiff class because "significant and material disparities exist" among the 145 possible class members in Maine, New York and Maryland. As a result, it would be difficult to determine which of them would qualify as independent contractors rather than employees. 

Plaintiff Oluro Olukayode, who worked as a consultant for the defendants, filed the suit in April 2019. Mr. Olukayode alleged that the companies failed to pay overtime wages, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the New York Minimum Wage Act and the Maryland Wage and Hour Law. 

Mr. Olukayode said he worked on five total EHR installation training projects for the subsidiaries in Maine, Maryland and New York. During those projects, Mr. Olukayode claimed that he worked more than 40 hours a week and was not paid properly for overtime.

In August 2019, a federal judge granted the plaintiff's motion to make the lawsuit a class action, limiting the members to those who began working as independent contractors for the defendants before September 2018. 

However, Mr. Dotty ruled that there are too many discrepancies among consultant experiences in Maine, Maryland and New York to certify the class. In particular, the court would have to review evidence from each plaintiff about their training, supervision, project lengths, equipment and hourly pay to determine the possible class.

"The court finds that these individual questions overwhelm any questions common to the class because plaintiffs need to submit evidence that varies from member to member," Mr. Dotty said. "Under these circumstances, the proposed class actions could not proceed efficiently. Therefore, the court denies class certification." 

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