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Rite-Aid not doing it Right

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Former Rite-Aid employees have been granted class certification regarding their complaint the pharmacy retailer violated California labor law by failing to reimburse them for uniforms. Another lawsuit accuses Rite Aid Corp of unpaid wages.

Santa Clara, CAA California federal judge says Rite Aid violated California labor law by not reimbursing its employees for their uniforms. And one month previously, in May, Rite-Aid was hit with another lawsuit. Along with Thrifty PayLess Inc., about 10,000 employees may be owed wages for time spent undergoing off-the-clock security checks.

Uniforms are Necessary Expenditures

Judge Lucy Koh granted class certification to 26,000 current and former Rite Aid employees, finding the pharmacy retailer’s companywide policy affected all workers in California. According to Law360, Judge Koh wrote that the workers provided "significant proof of a common question of whether [they] were required to purchase clothing as a condition of their employment". The plaintiffs also produced a survey showing nearly all employees wore khaki pants and blue polo shirts, proving that the workers “understood” they were required to wear such clothing.

The survey was imperative because Rite Aid said employees can wear anything they choose, as long as they wear a vest provided by the pharmacy retailer. Rite Aid argued that providing a vest means employees don’t have to pay for any clothing to meet the dress code. In attempting to oppose the class certification, Rite Aid said the “individualized nature of determining what is necessary for each employee precludes resolution on a classwide basis.”

The case is Nucci et al. v. Rite Aid Corp. et al., case number 5:19-cv-01434, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Off-the-Clock Security Checks Count

From Apple to Amazon, unpaid wages lawsuits have determined that failure to pay for security checks off-the-clock can lead to unpaid overtime compensation. In the Amazon unpaid wages lawsuit and other similar cases such as Apple and Staples, plaintiffs claimed that mandatory security checks undertaken by their employer while employees are off –the- clock and on their own time translates into unpaid wages. Depending upon the depth and breadth of the lineup for security checks, the potential was for employees to spend several minutes at a time waiting to pass through the security check. This could add up to a lot of overtime pay.

In the recent Rite Aid case, at least 10,000 employees are required to undergo mandatory security inspections while they are off-the-clock during meal breaks and at the end of their shifts.

In some cases, failure to pay additional wages or overtime for mandated work performed off the clock effectively drops minimum wage earners below the minimum wage threshold. That could have legal implications for the employer, not to mention the accompanying financial hardship for the employee.

Former Rite Aid employee and plaintiff Marion Lemons claims this mandatory security practice can last between 5-10 minutes daily and can sometimes take longer. Therefore, the practice violates minimum wage, overtime, meal period, and other wage provisions of California labor law. Lemon claims that uncompensated time adds up and employees are entitled to time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked over 40 per week, as well as minimum wage. Further, the searches also interfere with employees’ ability to take 30-minute meal breaks, Bloomberg Business reports.

The California Labor Law also states that employees must be compensated overtime wages if their employers do not allow uninterrupted meal breaks, and if they work more than 40 hours in a week.

The lawsuit was filed in early May, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Rite Aid and Thrifty merged in 1996, and operate 550 locations in California. The case is Lemons v. Rite Aid Corp., N.D. Cal., No. 3:20-cv-03124.


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