Dollar Tree Workers Try Again With $1.3M Uniform Deal - Aiman-Smith & Marcy
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Dollar Tree Workers Try Again With $1.3M Uniform Deal

October 24, 2018

Share us on: By Christopher Crosby

Law360 (October 24, 2018, 8:25 PM EDT) — Dollar Tree employees have urged a California federal judge to approve a $1.35 million settlement ending claims that the discount chain required workers to wear a uniform without reimbursing them for the cost, saying it’s better than an earlier settlement rejected by the court and puts nearly twice the money in 64,000 workers’ pockets.

Workers on Tuesday renewed their bid to settle the suit, saying the new deal improves upon an initial $900,000 proposed settlement that the court rejected in August over concerns it wasn’t the best outcome for Dollar Tree employees.

Employees said they took the court’s concerns to heart and beefed up financial terms across the board, not only raising the settlement fund but reducing class representative payments from $1000 to $750, lowering attorneys fees and expenses from $240,000 to $215,000, and cutting administrative costs from $111,000 to $99,900.

In all, the changes put almost $16 in class members pockets — 80 percent more than they got before — and “enough to cover the cost of two or three shirts which, for the average class member, would have been enough for his or her tenure at Dollar Tree,” employees said.

The terms were especially fair given the challenges plaintiffs faced, they said Tuesday. Even though half of the proposed class signed arbitration agreements excluding involvement in the litigation, the settlement will include them too, workers said.

Moreover, Dollar Tree never budged from its story that its policy does not require employees to only wear green and black, as a white shirt with khaki or tan pants is another wardrobe option. Because there is an option, Dollar Tree said its dress policy doesn’t meet California’s definition of uniform, meaning it didn’t have to reimburse employees for the clothes, something dozens of class members said they understood, according to Tuesday’s motion.

The original suit was filed in July 2017, alleging the discount chain violated California law by making employees wear a uniform it didn’t reimburse them for buying.

Settlement talks began in February, and by June the parties had a deal in play that would have seen employees pocket about $8.80 apiece.

The court, however, rejected that proposal in August, saying the payout was too low and worrying that the class release clause could also excuse the company from a host of issues outside the scope of the case.

The judge said that plans to tell employees of the deal via mail were too restrictive, administrative costs seemed high, and more time should be allotted for workers to object, to opt out of the deal, and to cash their checks, according to the motion.

The court also said that unclaimed funds should be redistributed to class members before being given to a cy pres recipient, the motion states. A copy of the court’s August order wasn’t immediately available Wednesday.

If approved, the settlement would certify a class of nearly 64,000 current and former employees who’ve worked at Dollar Tree in California from July 2013 onward.

If class members can’t immediately be located, the money they would have received will be redistributed equally to the remaining class members, assuming the court OKs it. Employees said they also altered the release clause to limit it to claims on uniforms and pushed back the deadline for cashing checks to 180 days.

As a result of the deal, Dollar Tree will not have to admit any liability with regards to its dress policy.

Counsel for the parties did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Dollar Tree Stores Inc. is represented by Jullie Z. Lal, William T. Page and Jeffrey D. Wohl of Paul Hastings LLP.

The workers are represented by Carey A. James, Randall B. Aiman-Smith, Reed W. L. Marcy, Brent A. Robinson and Hallie Von Rock of Aiman-Smith & Marcy.

The case is Nakooka et al. v. Dollar Tree Stores Inc., number 3:17-cv-03955 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Image: Corey Coyle [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons