Image: Brandy Melville

Brandy Melville has settled a long-running, consolidated lawsuit, which accused it of maintaining a “consistent policy” of failing to pay full wages and/or overtime to all hourly employees, and running afoul of California state law in the process. As reported by Business Insider, the settlement, which follows from a final judgment from the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles last month, will see the Los Angeles-headquartered teen retailer pay $1.45 million to almost 4,000 individuals who worked at Brandy Melville between October 12, 2012 and July 4, 2021. The class “will receive a net $805,000, with the rest of the nearly $1.5 million going towards attorney’s fees and costs,” per BI, which pointed to recent social media posts from former Brandy Melville employees who claim that they have received settlement checks from the brand. 

The matter got its start in January 2016 when Maria Allen and Maurice Brown filed a lawsuit in California state court, accusing Brandy Melville and related entities of “knowingly and intentionally” violating California’s labor code and engaging in unfair competition under California state law. Several months later, Katrina Lanni filed a similar lawsuit against Thomas Aquinas, Inc. dba Brandy Melville, in which she claimed that despite being employed by the company as hourly employees, on “a regular and consistent basis,” she – and all proposed class members – were “not properly compensated for all hours worked” because Brandy Melville “failed to pay [them] for each and every hour worked,” and they routinely worked “off the clock” without proper compensation. 

No Breaks, Inaccurate Record-Keeping

Specifically, Lanni alleged in her October 2016 complaint that Brandy Melville employees were “regularly required” to: (1) work without being paid for all hours worked at the appropriate rate; (2) work without being provided meal periods; (3) work without being provided rest periods; and (4) work without Brandy Meville maintaining “accurate time records.” Among other things, she maintained that Brandy Melville employees were forced to work over five hours per day without being provided a timely thirty-minute uninterrupted meal break or being compensated in the event that such a break was not taken in violation of California state law. Beyond that, Brandy Meville – which is well-known (and has been criticized) for its one-size sizing system and white-washed advertising – also allegedly required employees to work four-hour increments without being provided with required rest periods and failed to inform employees of their right to take rest periods in the first place.

Brandy Melville denied the claims lodged against it by Lanni in an answer filed back in 2016, and also set out an array of affirmative defenses. In addition to asserting that Lanni and the other class action plaintiffs lacked standing, failed to state facts sufficient to constitute causes of action, and did exhaust their administrative remedies before filing their lawsuit, Brandy Melville claimed that the causes of action “are barred by [Lanni’s] and/or putative class members’ willful, reckless or negligent misconduct,” and that their “losses, injuries or damages were proximately caused by [their] failure to comply with [its] directions” in connection with the underlying issues in the case. 

Allen and Brown’s, and Lanni’s cases were ultimately combined, and class action status was certified, enabling a pool of individuals – which consists of non-exempt hourly employees who worked for Brandy Melville from October 12, 2012 and July 4, 2021 – to join in the settlement. The Superior Court for California in Los Angeles issued a judgement and order granting final approval of the class action settlement on November 4.

Not the First Case

Hardly the first headline-making case waged against Brandy Melville since it expanded into the U.S. in 2009 (after getting its start in Italy in the early 80s), the retailer was sued twice in 2020 by former higher-ups at the company, which cited contract breaches, and a culture and hiring policy that was “rife with racism, sexism and sizeism.” One of those cases, the one filed by former senior vice president Luca Rotondo, was dismissed, while the other – which was filed in California state court in 2020 by Sorgi Franco and Simeone Paolo, the former heads of the company’s Canadian arm – resulted in a judgment for the plaintiffs. In their August 2020 complaint, Sorgi and Simeone asserted that Brandy Melville terminated their trademark agreements, thereby, cutting off their ability to run the company stores in Canada, after they refused to engage in discriminatory hiring. 

The Telegraph reported in September that the court ordered Brandy Melville to pay $806,000 in damages and other costs to Sorgi and Simeone in connection with the June 2022 judgment.

Reflecting on the case and the “nature of the allegations levelled at Brandy Melville,” the publication’s writers, Laura Craik and Janet Eastham stated that “it is striking that, in an era of cancel culture, that the brand appears to have survived relatively unscathed; its tween and teen customers, usually so socially aware, still queuing up to buy into the brand.” 

The cases are Katarina Lanni v. Thomas Aquinas Inc., BC637213 (Cal.), and Maria Allen et al., v. Brandy Melville, BC607668 (Cal.).