$1.95M Settlement In Class Action Against Moët Granted Preliminary Approval

On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Alameda Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman gave preliminary approval to a proposed $1.95 million settlement to resolve a class action against Moët Hennessey USA (“Moët”) and Strategic Experiential Group (“SEG”) (collectively, the “Defendants”) over alleged employee misclassification.

A class of employees led by Krystle Harrison, Napoleon Aparicio, and Shyron McDougall filed the case in March 2016, alleging Defendants knowingly misclassified models, brand ambassadors, and logistics personnel as independent contractors. SEG contracts with various liquor promotion companies, like Moët, to provide brand ambassadors and logistics personnel for the promotion of liquor brands at bars and other public venues. However, the companies allegedly managed and supervised all aspects of the workers’ labor during promotional events, according to the complaint.

The workers alleged that Defendants violated multiple California labor laws by denying them overtime wages, failing to reimburse them for uniform expenses, and failing to compensate them for missed or interrupted meal and rest breaks. Defendants, on the other hand, have maintained that their payroll practices complied with the state’s labor laws. In June, however, the parties notified the Court of their proposed settlement to resolve the claims. Under the proposed deal, each class member who submits a valid claim will get an average payout of approximately $1,580.

Judge Seligman issued a tentative ruling, granting preliminary approval but expressing some concerns, and stated that he will give his final approval only if certain changes are made to the settlement terms. Seligman found the cy pres provision did not comply with the state statute on cy pres payments. Additionally, he said that the class notice should include language making it clear that a class member can appear at the fairness hearing to object to the deal, and that the notice should also explain how class members can access documents at the courthouse. Attorneys for both parties agreed to make the requested changes and submit a revised version of the class notice to the Court.

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating employment and class action matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Nick Lussier (nlussier@sfmslaw.com) or Chiharu Sekino (csekino@sfmslaw.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

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Atkins, Dorothy. “Moet’s Joint $1.95M Wage Deal With Models Gets Initial OK.” Law 360. Last modified on November 14, 2017.