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OSC Wins Appeal to Protect Rights of Workers Coerced into Taking on Debts After Being Accused of Shoplifting

HomeBlogOSC Wins Appeal to Protect Rights of Workers Coerced into Taking on Debts After Being Accused of Shoplifting
August 31, 2021

On Monday, August 16, 2021, OSC and its co-counsel Legal Aid at Work won an appeal of a long-standing workers’ rights case against Burlington Coat Factory of California.

In Gallano v. Burlington, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the plaintiff’s win in the trial court and partially reversed the trial court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s claims under the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”).

The case involves Burlington’s practice of passing the cost of ordinary business losses onto its workers in violation of Labor Code section 2802. Plaintiff Krizel Gallano was a store clerk who mistakenly accepted returns and made other common retail mistakes. One day in 2014, she was asked to meet in the back room with a regional security manager, who claimed she would go to jail if she did not agree to sign a confession that she had “caused losses” to the store. As she cried, the loss prevention manager dictated her “confession” and then told her to sign a promissory note indebting her to Burlington for $880. She was then asked to resign or be fired. Two weeks later, Burlington sent Plaintiff “civil shoplifting demands” and demanded that she pay hundreds of dollars for shoplifting.

After the case was filed, Burlington twice moved to have the case dismissed under California’s anti-SLAPP law, which prohibits “strategic lawsuits” designed to thwart constitutional rights. Burlington claimed that its conduct was allowed under the “merchant’s privilege,” which allows stores to detain suspected shoplifters under certain conditions. The trial court rejected Burlington’s claim and found that the merchant’s privilege did not apply.

The case now returns to the San Mateo Superior Court.  We look forward to achieving justice for Ms. Gallano!

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