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.