Judge Rejects Hillyard Labor Settlement

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Rejecting a proposed settlement by cleaning-products retailer Hillyard, a federal judge found that the deal with product demonstrators does not give proper notice or provide a fair release of claims.
     Lawrence Christensen and George Currea are the lead plaintiffs in the labor class action that accuses Hillyard Inc., of failing to reimburse employees for travel expenses from demonstrations. Employees say Hillyard also requires demonstrators to purchase products, laptops, cellphones and uniforms out of pocket.
     After a full day of private mediation earlier this year, Hillyard agreed to pay $750,000 to settle the claims - amounting to about $75 per class member for each week they worked from 2009 to the present.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Cousins rejected the deal Thursday, however, after finding that it appeared to bind only for the named plaintiffs and Hillyard, and failed to include the terms for the general release of claims of other class members.
     While the $750,000 settlement seemed fair on its face, Cousins said the notice lacked the required advisory that putative class members could make an appearance through an attorney if they desired.
     "The court denies preliminary approval of the proposed settlement agreement, but grants leave to refile for preliminary approval should the parties reach a settlement agreement that cures the deficiencies identified in this order," Cousins wrote. "The court also denies adopting the proposed notice to the class as that notice fails to inform class members that they may enter an appearance through an attorney."