26,000 Rite Aid Workers Get The OK On Uniform Class Action
By Jon Steingart
Law360 (June 15, 2020, 7:07 PM EDT) — A California federal judge certified a 26,000-strong class of current and former Rite Aid employees who say the pharmacy retailer violated state law by failing to reimburse them for their uniforms, finding the alleged companywide policy affected all of its workers in the state.
U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh granted class certification Sunday to Kristal Nucci, Kelly Shaw and Ana Goswick, who claim Rite Aid’s dress code requirement violates Golden State law that says employers must cover the cost of employees’ “necessary expenditures” incurred as part of their jobs, including uniforms.
Judge Koh wrote that the workers provided “significant proof of a common question of whether [they] were required to purchase clothing as a condition of their employment” and noted the plaintiffs produced a survey showing nearly all employees understood they were required to wear khaki pants and blue polo shirts.
Whether employees were required to comply with the dress code as a condition of employment is a question that lends itself to class resolution, Judge Koh said. The survey the employees conducted provided evidence that not only did the company disseminate the clothing standards, but staff understood it, she noted, distinguishing the case from precedent that Rite Aid cited.
Rite Aid argued it doesn’t have to reimburse employees for clothing expenses because its dress code also allows them to wear a company-provided vest over anything they choose. Moreover, the California laws the employees cite require reimbursement only for “necessary” expenses, it argued. Providing vests means employees do not have to incur expenses to meet the dress code, Rite Aid said in its opposition to class certification. The individualized nature of determining what is necessary for each employee precludes resolution on a classwide basis, it added.
“We’re trying to build our way toward a body of law that says this is what it means for something to be required to be purchased as a condition of employment,” Reed Marcy, an attorney who represents the workers, told Law360 Monday. “There’s precious little case law about what is a necessary expenditure.”
Rite Aid spokesperson Chris Savarese declined to speak about the case Monday, telling Law360 the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The employees are represented by Randall Aiman-Smith, Reed Marcy, Hallie Von Rock, Carey James and Brent Robinson of Aiman-Smith & Marcy PC.
Rite Aid Corp. and its subsidiary Thrifty Payless Inc. are represented by Jonathan Klein, Sweta Patel and Melis Atalay of Klein Hockel Iezza & Patel PC.
The case is Nucci et al. v. Rite Aid Corp. et al., case number 5:19-cv-01434, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
–Editing by Janice Carter Brown.