Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Class Cert Denied for Sephora Specialists

Mies v. Sephora USA, Inc., No. A139410 (D1d1 Feb. 26, 2015)

Assistant managers at makeup retailer Sephora—called “Specialists” in Sephora-ise—bring a class action alleging that they are misclassified as exempt from the wage and hour laws. The big issue is whether they spend more than half their time on nonexempt work. Problem for plaintiffs is that “Specialist” turns out to be a pretty broad category at Sephora. Some of them spend the bulk of their time dealing with customers on the sales floor (which is not exempt work). Others spend most of their time on management and training activities (which can be exempt). 

The trial court quite reasonably determined that while there might be some simple common legal questions about what work was and was not exempt, the key issue in the case under the relevant legal standard—how did the class members actually spend their time at work—was “heavily individualized.” The court here holds that, under the circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion because “[g]iven the evidence before it, the trial court here could reasonably view the likely disputes at trial as being less about how to classify certain tasks (such as selling) and the impact of company policies, and more about how individual Specialists spend their time.”


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