California Judge Grants Preliminary Approval to $1.8 Million Settlement


Los Angeles, CA: A California Wage and Hour Employment class-action lawsuit reached an important milestone a week ago when a US District Court Judge gave a nod to a settlement worth $1.8 million. Up to 22,000 class members will share in about $1.2 million, with the remainder going to attorney’s fees.

The defendant in the case is the Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp (Burlington). According to court records, the allegations centered on the deprivation of rest periods and a requirement for bag checks that were conducted off the clock, allegedly depriving class members of wages to which they were entitled.

The original California wage and hour lawsuit (Armida Rodriguez v. Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. et al., Case Number 2:13-cv-02426, in the US District Court for the Central District of California) was filed in 2012 by named plaintiff Armida Rodriguez. Two years later, in November 2014 Rodriguez filed her motion to certify the class given the belief that Burlington maintained a “uniform policy” relating to rest periods and bag checks that would have affected all non-exempt employees in Burlington’s 60 locations across California, in similar fashion.

According to court documents, the settlement benefits all current and former hourly, non-exempt (for overtime purposes) employees of Burlington who worked in any one of its retail stores in the state of California from October 2008 through the date of settlement approval.

The plaintiff, in her California wage and hour lawsuit, asserted that Burlington maintained a handbook of policies and protocol requiring managers to conduct bag checks for security purposes after hourly employees had already clocked out for the day.

On Wednesday, December 2, it was reported that US District Judge Dean D. Pregerson granted preliminary approval of the $1.8 million settlement. The next step in the process comes early in the New Year, when Judge Pregerson will hear arguments for a final fairness and approval hearing on February 29, 2016.

In his order granting preliminary approval, Judge Pregerson referenced the “risk, expense, complexity and likely duration” of trying the litigation, together with the risks associated with trying to maintain class-action status throughout a pending trial.

Thus, he granted preliminary approval of the settlement.

The requirement for bag checks at major retail establishments has long been the bane of low-paid retail workers who are often required to wait in long lines for mandated bag checks for security purposes. The problem, plaintiffs say, is that such security checks are undertaken on their own time, after they have clocked out for the day. In some cases, employees are often required to undergo security checks prior to commencing their meal breaks - again, on their own time, which also is alleged to impinge on the length of time they have available for nourishment and rest.

To combat these alleged California wage and hour injustices, plaintiffs have taken to the courts for redress.

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