Although the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court's decision to dismiss Nordstrom employees' labor lawsuit, one plaintiff's lawyer said the case has still made strides in narrowing the definition of the ''day of rest'' law and improving employee fairness.
Former employees of retail department store Nordstrom filed a lawsuit against the company in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The case was argued in December 2014, but when the case was dismissed, the plaintiffs appealed. The appeals court filed their opinion to affirm the district court's decision Aug. 3.
Christopher Mendoza, plaintiff, and Meagan Gordon, plaintiff-intervenor, sued Nordstrom after working more than six consecutive days. Mendoza, who worked for Nordstrom from March 2007 to August 2009, worked more than six consecutive days on three different occasions, with the longest being 11 consecutive days. He had not been scheduled to work more than six consecutive days, but he did so after a supervisor asked him to fill in for another employee.
Gordon, who was working for the company in 2011, worked more than six days in a row on one occasion, which was for eight consecutive days.
Mendoza alleged in his lawsuit that by having an employee work more than six days in a row, Nordstrom violated the California Labor Code, which enforces the ''day of rest'' law. The law states that “[every] person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.”
After a bench trial, the district court found that Nordstrom was exempt from the ''day of rest'' law because "each plaintiff worked less than six hours on at least one day in the consecutive seven days of work." The district court added that even without the exemption, Nordstrom still would not have been found under any violation because the employees freely accepted the additional shift when they were offered.
Gordon's lawyer, James M. Treglio of the Clark Law Firm, told the Northern California Record that while the case has been dismissed, it has made strides in the rights of California workers going forward.
"We've had significant success in defining workplace rest for day off rest," Treglio said. "Employers can no longer schedule their employees for day after day of work. We had an employee in the records who worked 53 days in a row. That type of thing will not happen in the future."
Treglio said that the ''day of rest'' was fairly unfamiliar in the realm of California law before this case. But now clarity and certainty has been brought to the law.
"Employers now have to give their employees notice of their right to a day of rest," Treglio said. "Before the case, employers encouraged employees to work because then they didn't have to hire other employees and the flexibility was something that the employers took advantage, but the thing that suffered was the employees' ability to rest. There's been significant advancement in an undefined area."
Although Treglio acknowledges that restating the case is definitely "in the realm of possibility," he contends that he and his clients have already done enough to push employee rights forward.
"Even if we don't restate the case, someone will, and those people will stand on our shoulders and have the benefit of everything we've done," Treglio said.