Costco Defeats Class Certification in Security Holds

Costco Defeats Class Certification in Security Holds Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Costco.

As many as 30,000 Costco workers have had the door shut on a proposed class action targeting the nationwide warehouse store chain for effectively locking them in at the end of their shifts for security reasons and not paying them for the extra time.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on April 14 negated the conditional class certification the plaintiffs had been granted in December 2010 by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

In Stiller v. Costco Wholesale Corp., the plaintiffs alleged that Costco stores followed a policy that barred workers from leaving at the end of the day until managers collected cash register tills and jewelry from display cases and locked them all away. That could take as long as 30 minutes or an hour, for which the workers were not paid.

The plaintiffs alleged Costco violated federal and state labor laws.

Costco acknowledged that its store manuals and “employee agreements” have mandated those procedures, although the company says it amended its policies in 2009, after the class complaint was lodged, to compensate workers for such off-the-clock security delays. But Costco also argued that wide variances exist in how stores are run.

For Curiel, the stumbling block was the plaintiffs’ failure to provide an overall class-wide method to determine—as a whole—whether, how often and for how long the workers were kept on the premises without pay.

That meant, Curiel wrote, that determining the class would take individual inquiries, which would mean the case would fail to meet the legal criteria for class certification.

Lisa Hoffman contributes to law.com.

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