The major retail clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch, which is a staple store in shopping malls around the country, will pay employees and former employees to the tune of $25 million in order to resolve allegations of wage and hour violations. Specifically, in four states, the company allegedly violated minimum wage laws by requiring employees to pay for mandatory work-related expenses. One of these states is California.
Overall, about 250,000 employees will receive a payout, although the exact amount for each employee was not revealed. The settlement will resolve two class-action suits that were originally filed separately in federal court.
The allegations were that the store effectively required its employees to buy merchandise from the store so they could wear those clothes to work. The workers argued that since the cost of these mandatory clothes reduced their pay, they were, legally speaking, being paid less than minimum wage since the store did not reimburse the workers.
For its part, Abercrombie continues to deny violating the law and says it has written policies in place stating that, while the store expects employees to dress in a particular fashion style, they are not required to buy Abercrombie's merchandise in order to work at the store. The store claimed the settlement was in the company's best interest.
Although employers can make employees wear certain clothing to work and can make them purchase appropriate clothing at their own expense, they may not require work-related purchases that has the effect of driving an employee's wage below legal minimums. If they do this, employees may be entitled to compensation and other relief.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "Abercrombie settles employee-apparel suit in 4 states for $25 million," Tim Feran, Jan. 29, 2018.