Plaintiffs Move for Class Certification in Rite-Aid Uniform Reimbursement Case

Authors: John Roberts (jroberts@sfmslaw.com) or Alec Berin (aberin@sfmslaw.com)

On March 19, 2019, Plaintiff Kristal Nucci (“Plaintiff”), individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a proposed class action in the District Court for the Northern District of California against Rite Aid Corporation (“Rite Aid”), among others, for failure to indemnify business expenses and failure to reimburse for required uniforms under the California Labor Code.  In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Rite Aid has a company-wide policy requiring store employees to wear “Team Colors,” including only navy blue shirts and khaki pants, which must also comply with numerous additional detailed style requirements, while working.  However, Rite Aid does not reimburse its employees for the expense of obtaining their required clothing items.  Plaintiff further alleges that, because these clothing items are required as a condition of employment, they constitute necessary business expenses which must be reimbursed by Rite Aid under California law.  Plaintiff further alleges that Rite Aid’s failure to reimburse for these costs constitutes an unfair and unlawful business practice under California’s Unfair Competition Law.  On May 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding claims for failure to pay minimum wage, failure to furnish accurate wage statements, waiting time penalties, and Private Attorney General Act penalties under California law, as well as adding additional plaintiffs (“Plaintiffs”).

Plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a class on February 6, 2020.  The class that Plaintiffs seek to certify is as follows:

All non-exempt employees, excluding pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and asset protection agents, working in any Rite Aid store in California at any time from March 13, 2015 through the trial (or settlement) date.

Plaintiffs argue in their motion that Rite Aid (a) has a policy of requiring employees to purchase clothing constituting a uniform, (b) does not reimburse its employees for the costs and expenses of the uniform, despite its obligation to do so, and that (c) Plaintiffs provided sufficient evidence of this policy.  Rite Aid’s primary defense is that it provides blue vests as an alternative to the required “Team Colors” uniform and, therefore, is not required to reimburse its employees for purchasing “Team Colors” clothing.  Plaintiffs argue that the case essentially turns on these two common questions; namely, (1) whether Rite Aid’s “Team Colors” of navy blue tops and khaki-colored bottoms constitute a uniform under California law, and (2) whether Rite Aid, as a matter of practice and policy, provides blue vests as an alternative to the required “Team Colors” uniform, including in a sufficient number to provide to all employees for every shift.  Plaintiffs argue that these common questions render this case appropriate for class treatment.

Rite Aid has not yet filed its opposition to Plaintiffs’ class certification motion.  This case has been assigned to Judge Lucy H. Koh.

The legal team at Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP (“SFMS”) has substantial experience litigating class action employment matters, including reimbursement for business expenses. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact John Roberts (jroberts@sfmslaw.com) or Alec Berin (aberin@sfmslaw.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (877-891-9880).

SFMS is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. SFMS is an active member of Integrated Advisory Group (www.iaginternational.org), which provides our firm with the ability to provide our clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources throughout the globe. For more information about our firm, please visit us at www.sfmslaw.com.

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