On July 13, 2017, the California Supreme Court in Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls) issued its first opinion addressing the scope of discovery in representative actions brought under the state’s Private Attorneys General Act, knows as PAGA (Cal. Labor Code §§ 2698 et seq.). The Court reversed the trial court’s discovery order denying Plaintiff’s motion seeking contact information for fellow California employees in other California Marshalls of CA, LLC (“Marshalls”) stores in this representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State and aggrieved employees statewide for alleged wage and hour violations.
Plaintiff Michael Williams worked in the Costa Mesa, California Marshalls store beginning in January 2012. In 2013, Williams sued Marshalls under California’s PAGA, alleging that the company failed to provide meal and rest periods or compensation in lieu of the required breaks to Williams and other aggrieved employees. The complaint also alleged that Marshalls routinely understaffed stores, required employees to work during meal periods without compensation, directed managers to erase meal period violations from time records, and required employees to carry out company business without reimbursement. Williams further alleged that as a result of these violations, Marshalls failed to provide him and other aggrieved employees timely wage payment or complete and accurate wage statements. All told, Williams sought declaratory relief and civil penalties on behalf of approximately 16,500 current and former non-exempt employees who worked at Marshalls stores throughout California.
Click here to read the Supreme Court’s Opinion in Williams v. Marshalls of CA.
Concerns by Employers
The Court’s opinion is concerning for employers since broad discovery rights, like those approved of in Williams, can be used in efforts to get companies to settle, even when the alleged claims have little or no merit. Further, dealing with broad discovery rights can be burdensome and expensive for employers trying to defend questionable litigation.
PAGA “deputizes” California employees to bring claims against their employers on behalf of the state for violations of the California Labor Code. Similar claims had previously been recoverable only through or by the state’s labor commissioner. The statute can carry expensive penalties for employers, as employees must bring such claims as “representative” actions on behalf of other allegedly aggrieved employees, without having to meet the requirements for class certification.
California Employment Lawyers
With the increase in California PAGA claims, employers and employees alike should remain informed of labor and employment laws and any changes by the legislature this year. There remains numerous benefits as a result of PAGA’s original passing and Kingsley & Kingsley continues to prosecute these claims on behalf of California employees. To discuss a potential PAGA claim, feel free to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or contact us via email.
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