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Calif. Polo Employees Granted Class-Action Status in Compensation Suit

A U.S. district judge in San Francisco Tuesday granted class-action status to a lawsuit by former employees of stores operated by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

A U.S. district court judge in San Francisco Tuesday granted class-action status to a compensation lawsuit brought by former employees of stores operated by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. in California, potentially.

The lawsuit accuses the company of denying employees proper payment for time spent in its stores, failing to provide rest breaks, improperly classifying all salespeople as commission-based earners exempt from overtime and improperly using an arrears program to reduce commissions earnings.

As part of the ruling, both parties were ordered to enter mediation within the next 45 days.

A representative for Polo Ralph Lauren said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Judge Susan Ilston granted the class-action status after hearing testimony from the four former employees bringing the suit and declarations filed by other class members, as well as competing declarations in defense of Polo Ralph Lauren filed by current employees.

According to allegations in the complaint, originally filed in May 2007, employees were discouraged or prevented from taking breaks and were subject to bag checks for stolen merchandise before leaving the stores, but after they had clocked out. The class certification includes any cashier or sales associate injured by an alleged violation from May 30, 2002, to the present. According to court documents, Polo Ralph Lauren operates 28 stores in the state.

In 2007, the company settled a suit that alleged its dress code policies violated several California laws.