While every life story is unique, Minnesota litigator Rachhana Srey’s journey (and her whole family’s history) is particularly amazing. Ms. Srey was born in a chicken coop in a refugee camp in Cambodia and she is now a preeminent wage-and-hour class action plaintiff’s lawyer in Minnesota at the law firm of Nichols Kaster. Profiling Ms. Srey seems particularly timely given the currently hot issue of U.S. immigration policy. But Ms. Srey’s deep and impressive professional expertise makes for an interesting interview in and of itself.
Minnesota Litigator (“ML”): I’d like this interview to cover your professional life and your personal life in the sense that you have a history, which I think is remarkable and would be interesting to Minnesota Litigator readers. Let’s start with what we really cover, which is you as a Minnesota civil litigator. You have deep expertise in a particular area: collective actions and class actions on behalf of employees for unpaid overtime and minimum wages?
Racchana Srey: That is right.
ML: Is it as narrow at that?
R. Srey: Currently, all but one of my cases is a wage an hour class or collective action. I have one here in Minnesota that’s pretty large and significant and then other cases all around the country that are either overtime pay or minimum wages or both. Then, I have a large class action age discrimination case that, while it’s only one case out of however many, it takes up a significant amount of time.
ML: Your practice is far broader than just Minnesota?
R. Srey: It is far broader than Minnesota. I wish I actually had more cases in Minnesota but we end up having a lot of lawsuits with companies that are located all around the country. We end up in California, New York, from east to west all over in terms of these wage and hour cases.
ML: How long have you been doing wage and hour cases?
R. Srey: When I started the firm in 2004 I actually did both individual employment discrimination cases and wage and hour cases, so I definitely had more of a practice in Minnesota earlier in my career. Back then, I only had a couple of the wage and hour cases, one was in Minnesota and couple were elsewhere. As I progressed in my career, I had to make a choice in terms of “do you continue to handle the individual sex discrimination, age discrimination cases that are here in Minnesota or focus more on the class action type practice that takes you elsewhere and has a lot more travel required?” Even though I had a couple of small kids at the time, I decided to move more towards the class action route. It was difficult, I think, to sort of manage both because I wanted to give the same amount of attention and detail and work effort to the individual cases but there was always something massive, huge, happening in the big class cases that would take me away from the individual cases.
ML: What is the average duration, if you can estimate it, of the individual kinds of cases from start to finish?
R. Srey: For an individual employment case I would say probably a couple of years. For a class case, I worked on a case for seven years and we lost at trial. For this current age discrimination case, we started working on it in 2012 and I thought it was going to wrap up in a couple of years once we got involved. There was a solo practitioner who was handling it from Tennessee, he brought us on and we thought it would wrap up a few years afterwards. Now, it’s been five years and we’re still going.
ML: I noticed in your profile on your law firm website it talks about your “exceptional case management skills” and I’m curious what that entails.