For the past 20 years, the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) has been a thorn to employer’s side in California. In 2004, PAGA, a California state law, was enacted to create a private right of action for workers to file representative actions on behalf of themselves and other workers based on specific labor code violations. The purpose behind enacting such legislation was to give authority to “aggrieved employees” to enforce the law, thereby alleviating the strain on California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). This private right of action empowered workers with the authority to enforce California’s numerous labor laws that the LWDA purportedly did not have resources to pursue. Successful PAGA litigants recover 25 percent of monetary penalties for state labor law violations, while the remaining 75 percent of penalties go to the LWDA. The statute also allows plaintiffs’ lawyers to recover attorneys’ fees if they prevail on a PAGA lawsuit.   Continue Reading Is this the end of PAGA?

The California Supreme Court ruled on March 12, 2020 that an individual plaintiff’s settlement of their claims against an employer for purported wage and hour violations does not deprive that plaintiff of standing as an authorized representative in a Private Attorney General’s Act (PAGA) action.

PAGA deputizes an employee to file a lawsuit for purported California Labor Code violations against their employer to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other similarly situated employees and the State of California. To pursue a PAGA action, the plaintiff must have standing as an “aggrieved employee.” PAGA defines an “aggrieved employee” as “any person who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.”

In Kim v. Reins International California, Inc., March 12, 2020, Case No. 5246911, Justin Kim, an employee of Reins International (Reins), brought a putative class action and PAGA representative action for Labor Code violations against his employer. While the case was pending, Reins moved to compel arbitration as to Kim’s individual claims and dismissed the class action claims based on the arbitration agreement. While the PAGA litigation remained in the trial court, the trial court stayed the action pending the arbitration of Kim’s individual claims. Kim ultimately settled his individual claims and dismissed them, leaving only the PAGA claim for resolution. Reins then moved for summary adjudication of the PAGA claim on the ground that Kim was no longer an aggrieved employee and his rights had been “completely redressed” by his own settlement and dismissal of his underlying claims. The trial court granted the dismissal and the Court of Appeals affirmed.Continue Reading California Supreme Court: Employees who settle their own wage and hour claims still have standing to pursue PAGA

On July 13, 2017, in a decision with serious repercussions on the scope of PAGA discovery, the California Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeals in Williams v. Superior Court to allow state-wide discovery of Marshalls employees’ contact information, without the plaintiff first having to show any evidence to support his own individual claims or the existence of a company-wide policy.

Plaintiff was a Marshalls employee who brought an action under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) for meal and rest break violations, timely wage payment, and wage statement violations. At the start of discovery, the plaintiff sought employee contact information pertaining to the approximately 16,500 non-exempt workers across all Marshalls locations in California.  Although the trial court and the Court of Appeals held that incremental discovery was more appropriate and denied the plaintiff’s request for any employee contact information outside of his own work location until after undergoing “six productive hours of deposition,” the California Supreme Court disagreed.

Instead, the Supreme Court, in a lengthy opinion, shut down each of the Court of Appeals’ objections to the plaintiff’s request for state-wide discovery.   First, the Supreme Court held that “[i]n pursuing such [representative] discovery, the strength or weakness of the plaintiff’s individual claim is immaterial.”  Second, the Supreme Court stated that state-wide discovery was proper absent any company-wide or uniform policy as “[a] uniform policy may be a convenient or desirable way to show commonality of interest in a case where class certification is sought, but it is not a condition for discovery, or even success, in a PAGA action…”
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Expands Scope of PAGA Discovery