California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
Nov 9, 2012

Class Certification Improper on Claims for Expense Reimbursement for Uniforms and Travel

Topics: Class Actions, Court Decisions, Wage & Hour Issues

This week, a California court affirmed a victory for clothing retailer Wet Seal, who successfully defeated class certification on wage and hour claims for alleged failure to reimburse uniform expenses and alleged failure to compensate employees for expenses associated with using their personal vehicles to travel between store locations.  The plaintiff and proposed class of retail employees alleged that Wet Seal required employees to purchase and wear Wet Seal clothing at work, but failed to reimburse employees for the cost of this alleged "uniform."  The employees further alleged that Wet Seal at times required them to use their own cars to travel from one store location to another for meetings or other business reasons, but did not reimburse employees for mileage or other travel expense.  In seeking to have a class of some 12,000 employees certified, the plaintiff submitted declarations of several employees stating that they purchased Wet Seal clothing without being reimbursed and used their car to travel to stores without reimbursement.  In opposing the motion, Wet Seal presented its expense reimbursement and work attire policies, which on their face made very clear that employees are entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses in accordance with law and that employees are not required to purchase Wet Seal clothing but rather simply expected to dress in the fashion style of the store.  Wet Seal also offered employees a generous discount on the cost of store merchandise.  Wet Seal additionally presented declarations of numerous employees confirming that they understood they did not have to buy or wear Wet Seal clothing, and that they had submitted documentation of travel expense and been reimbursed in accordance with company policy.

In concluding that class certification was not appropriate on these claims, the court explained that Wet Seal's policies were facially lawful and thus could not supply the necessary "common policy" or "common method of proof" needed to support a determination of liability on a class wide basis.  Instead, a determination of liability would depend on individualized testimony of employees that, for example, their particular supervisor required them to purchase Wet Seal clothing and/or told them that they could not be reimbursed for travel expenses.  In the circumstances, any trial of liability would require numerous individualized inquiries, making class certification unmanageable and inappropriate.  The case is Morgan v. Wet Seal.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

> visit primary site

About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
> Contact   > Full Bio   Call 916.361.0991

CDF Labor Law LLP © 2020

About CDF What We Do Contact Us Attorney Advertising Disclaimer Privacy Policy Cookie Policy