Gucci has been slapped with a class action lawsuit, which alleges that the Italian design house fails to adequately compensate its employees. The complaint, which was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles by Janine Oda and Gissella Velasquez, on behalf of themselves and other unnamed employees who have worked at the brand's California retail locations, alleges that Gucci failed to pay minimum and overtime wages, and failed to provide employees with rest and meal periods, in addition to an array of other violations of the California Labor Code and the California Business and Professions Code. The two named plaintiffs, who worked at Gucci's Beverly Hills location, claim that there are more than 75 other employees that have been subjected to Gucci's illegal employment practices.
Oda and Velasquez, both of whom have been terminated from Gucci, allege in their complaint that Gucci violated a number of California Labor Code provisions. The house, along with 30 other unnamed defendants, "conspired together in, aided and abetted, contributed to […] the acts acts complained herein" including: Improper "computation and/or improper deduction of time from the actual or correct amount of wages due to Plaintiffs;" failure to provide employees with the legally mandated meal breaks (pursuant to the California Labor Code, "employees are entitled to a timely and uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes for each workday they worked for more than five hours and a second meal period on days where they worked additional overtime hours and third meal periods where applicable."); failure to provide employees with the legally mandated rest periods ("a paid rest break of at least ten minutes in duration during every four hours"); failure to properly calculate the employees' allotted vacation time and failure to compensate them for unused vacation time; failure to pay all wages owed at or all or in a timely fashion to employees that were terminated; and failure to provide accurate, itemized wage statements.
Not only are the named plaintiffs asking for monetary damages, but they are also asking the court to certify their class action lawsuit. A class action is a type of lawsuit in which one or more plaintiffs files and prosecutes a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group. Here it is two Gucci employees in California filing a suit on behalf of a larger class of Gucci California employees who have been subjected to common labor code violations. Put simply, in order to initiate a class action lawsuit, a named plaintiff (or more than one named plaintiff) files a complaint (such as the one discussed above) for a putative class action. The putative class must consist of a group of individuals that have suffered a common wrong. After the initial complaint is filed, the plaintiff must file a motion with the court to have the class certified - aka to allow other plaintiffs to join in the suit. In some instances, discovery may be necessary in order to determine the size of the potential class of plaintiffs and whether the proposed class meets the standard for class certification.
As for why a class action is beneficial to plaintiffs, there are a number of reasons to file a combined lawsuit. For instance, the aggregation of numbers claims (the common claims of each separate individual that has been wronged by the defendant) into one case can increase the efficiency of the legal process. The benefit to plaintiffs here is a lower cost of litigation, especially since the majority of their individual cases gives rise to many of the same witnesses, exhibits and issues. The second benefit to plaintiffs, one that is addressed in Oda and Velasquez's case against Gucci is essentially a strength in numbers argument. According to the complaint:
If each employee was required to file an individual action, Defendants would be able to use their superior financial and legal resources to gain an unfair advantage over each individual Class member. Moreover, requiring each Class member to pursue an individual action would also discourage the ascertain of meritorious causes of action by employees who would likely be disinclined to file such individual actions due to a justifiable fear of retaliation and damage to their careers at subsequent employment.
As such, it seems that class action lawsuits often result in a fairer fight for the plaintiffs, as they are often in a position of inferiority in terms of resources and thus, bargaining power, in comparison to the defendants. Moreover, an additional benefit includes a tolling or suspension of the statute of limitation periods during the lawsuit for asserted class members who have not opted out to file an individual lawsuit.
With such advantages, however, come downfalls. Resolution of class actions, for instance, often take much longer than lawsuits with fewer plaintiffs due to their procedural complexities. By joining a class action, individuals whose rights have been violated typically forgo their ability to file an individual lawsuit on the matter being adjudicated. Similarly, because there is a common class, there is a common outcome, and as a result, the differences between the individual cases are not generally emphasized.
More to come …