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Workers Win $25 Million Settlement From Rite Aid

SAN DIEGO - From the beginning, it was a contest of stamina-increasing the surprise when a tiny San Diego law office outlasted an international firm with 1,000 lawyers to gain a record-setting settlement of overtime claims for California employees of Rite Aid Corp.

Plaintiffs' attorneys alleged that Rite Aid misclassified managers, assistant managers and managers-in-training as salaried employees and failed to give them overtime pay. Some plaintiffs worked more than 80 hours a week for up to 36 consecutive days without proper compensation, they contended.

Rite Aid, represented by the Los Angeles office of Morgan, Lewis & Bocklus, denied all the allegations and agreed to the settlement without admitting any fault or liability, according to the settlement agreement in Albrecht v. Rite Aid.

"We think that it's a fair settlement for all parties," Sarah Datz, a spokeswoman at Rite aid's Camp Hill, Pa., corporation headquarters, said.

The lead lawyer for Rite-Aid Andrew C. Peterson of Morgan Lewis said that, with the settlement, he's put the heated clashes behind him. And, he said, sole practitioners and small law firms are catching up with big firms on the class-action gridiron: "With the electronics you have today, the playing field has been leveled".

Still, the challenge was massive.

Rite-Aid, the nation's third-largest drugstore chain, could file 15 motions in a week. At one time, depositions were being taken at the rate of six per day, in locations scattered throughout the state, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.

In all, case statistics reveal 2,340 discovery requests, 122 dispositions to attend and 80 more to prepare. The two sides filed a combined 84 motions, three mediations took place, and the defense filed seven appeals to the 4th District.

Court clerks lugged the 30-volume court file around stuffed in an overflowing shopping cart.

Along with the money settlement, the plaintiffs gained better working conditions[], During the course of the suit, Rite Aid reclassified some workers to ensure them overtime pay and limited the hours that managers can work to 45 per week, the lawyers said.

Approximately 3,200 Rite Aid managers, assistant managers and managers-in-training from October 5, 1994 to May 31, 2001, are eligible for a piece of the settlement. What any individual receives will depend on the number of weeks worked. The payment will be $35 per workweek and many workers will receive thousands of dollars, according to court documents.

Rite Aid was scheduled to notify class members about the settlement by mail last week and at some point in newspaper advertisements, according to the terms of the settlement. The case is Albrecht v. Rite Aid, 729219 (San Diego Super. Ct., filed March 23, 1999)

Excerpts from LA Daily Journal Article dated 6/25/01 Copyright LA Daily Journal Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. This article may not be used in any form without the express permission of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.


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