62K Abercrombie Workers Win Class Cert. In Look Policy Row

Jul 20, 2015
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Share us on:   By Y. Peter Kang via Law360

Law360, Los Angeles (July 16, 2015, 6:48 PM ET) — A California federal judge on Thursday certified a class of about 62,000 Abercrombie & Fitch Co. employees who brought an employment suit claiming they were illegally required to buy the retailer’s clothing for work, ruling that the plaintiffs satisfied all the requirements for class certification.

Named plaintiff Alexander Brown alleges that Abercrombie implements a statewide practice of requiring employees to purchase its clothing to wear at work in violation of California’s Labor Code and has failed to reimburse the plaintiffs for the purchase of clothing or footwear.

In granting the motion to certify the class, U.S. District Jesus G. Bernal said the suit satisfies the requirements of Rule 23(a) and Rule 23(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

“In light of the large number of potential class members and the relatively small monetary value of their individual claims, the court concludes that a class action is a superior method for resolving this case,” Judge Bernal wrote in a 28-page order.

Judge Bernal granted certification of four subclasses of workers employed by the company in California from September 2009 to the present who purchased Abercrombie clothing.

In June, the judge granted Abercrombie’s motion to stay claims for two additional subclasses that allege the company did not provide employees with 10-minute rest breaks every four hours as a settlement of a similar action against Abercrombie in California state court is currently awaiting approval.

Thursday’s order is the latest in a case originally filed in state court in September 2013 but removed to federal court later that year.

The plaintiffs allege that Abercrombie required employees to wear what essentially constituted a uniform but didn’t provide it, instead forcing employees to purchase items from its “AAA Style Guide” booklet containing pictures of specific articles of clothing from Abercrombie’s current season.

“Employees are required to buy and wear the clothing pictured in this booklet,” the amended complaint said. “Named Plaintiff Alexander Brown was fired from Abercrombie after failing to purchase Abercrombie clothing from the AAA Style Guide and was rehired when he purchased such Abercrombie clothing.”

In March, Abercrombie disputed the plaintiffs’ class certification bid, saying its policy regarding associate appearance — the Look Policy — expressly states that the workers are not required to purchase Abercrombie-brand clothes.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Abercrombie is represented by Mark A. Knueve, Daren S. Garcia and Michael J. Ball of Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease LLP and Kathy H. Gao of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

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

The case is Alexander Brown et al. v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. et al., case number 2:14-cv-01242, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

–Additional reporting by Aebra Coe. Editing by Christine Chun.

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