Rite Aid Workers Seek Class Of 26K In Uniform Payback Suit
By Hailey Konnath
Law360 (February 7, 2020, 9:45 PM EST) — Rite Aid workers suing over the drugstore chain’s alleged requirement that its employees purchase work uniforms without reimbursement have urged a California federal court to certify a class of more than 26,300 employees, according to a motion filed Thursday.
According to named plaintiffs Kristal Nucci, Kelly Shaw and Ana Goswick, Rite Aid has a companywide written policy requiring its employees to dress in “team colors” — navy blue tops and khaki-colored bottoms. These outfits must also meet numerous other Rite Aid style requirements, the current and former workers said in their March 2019 complaint.
Because Rite Aid doesn’t reimburse employees for costs incurred in putting together these uniforms, Rite Aid is in violation of California’s labor law, per the suit.
The workers are looking to certify a class of all past and present Rite Aid employees who worked at California stores between March 2015 and when the case goes to trial, according to Thursday’s motion for class certification. Workers not required to wear the colors at issue, including pharmacists and pharmacy interns, would be excluded from the class, they said.
“Rite Aid alone benefits from its dress code, which exists to promote Rite Aid’s brand and identify employees to customers,” the plaintiffs said. “The cost of that benefit should be borne by Rite Aid, not its employees.”
Brent Robinson, counsel for the proposed class, told Law360 on Friday that under California law, if an employer requires its workers to wear “team colors,” that constitutes a uniform the employer must pay for and provide.
“We look forward to the opportunity to prove these claims on a classwide basis at trial,” he said.
Rite Aid has argued that employees are also permitted to wear a Rite Aid-provided blue vest as an alternative to the “team colors” policies, according to the motion. But the workers responded that the vest is only permitted if an employee is unable to wear the “team colors.” And blue vests aren’t even available at most stores, they said.
“Rite Aid had no blue vests at all at 71% of its California stores, and only one or two vests at another 12% of its stores,” they said.
The plaintiffs said in the motion that all surveyed proposed class members said they were required to wear navy blue tops and 98% said they were required to wear khaki bottoms. Almost all of them said they had purchased tops and bottoms to comply with the policy, per the motion.
“Plaintiffs’ survey evidence, showing that virtually all employees bought Team Colors clothing, demonstrates that employees never believed they could wear a blue vest as an alternative to Team Colors clothing,” the workers said.
The case is suited for class treatment because Rite Aid’s requirement is well-recognized, according to the motion. And damages can be determined with a simple survey and statistical evidence, the workers said.
Counsel for Rite Aid didn’t immediately return a request for comment Friday.
The proposed class is represented by Randall B. Aiman-Smith, Reed W.L. Marcy, Hallie Von Rock, Carey A. James and Brent A. Robinson of Aiman-Smith & Marcy PC.
Rite Aid was represented as recently as December by Jonathan Allan Klein, Sweta H. Patel and Melis Atalay of Klein Hockel Iezza & Patel PC.
The case is Kristal Nucci v. Rite Aid Corporation et al., case number 5:19-cv-01434, in the U.S. District Court for the California Northern District.