Supreme Court Holds That PAGA Representative Waivers Are Enforceable In Certain Significant Respects


On June 15, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued its considerably expected choice in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. The Supreme Court docket held that California’s rule invalidating pre-dispute agreements waiving the right to deliver “representative” claims below the Non-public Lawyers General Act of 2004 (PAGA) is partially preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The final decision raises some hard questions that will need to have to be solved in future litigation, but it need to offer companies with a effective software to restrict PAGA promises.

PAGA and the Concepcion and Iskanian Conclusions

To have an understanding of the Court’s holding in Viking River Cruises, some background and historical past is important.

PAGA is a California statute that permits an “aggrieved employee” to sue his or her employer to obtain civil penalties on behalf of the state for violations of the California Labor Code for which there would ordinarily be no non-public ideal of motion. Cal. Lab. Code §§ 2698, et seq. For most alleged Labor Code violations, PAGA imposes a civil penalty in the quantity of $100 for every employee, for each pay out period of time in which the violations manifest. Cal. Lab. Code § 2698(f)(2). Of the penalties recovered in a PAGA motion, 25% are awarded to the staff against whom the violations were fully commited, and 75% are awarded to the California Labor Workforce and Enhancement Company. Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(i). California courts have interpreted PAGA to allow a single personnel who has experienced any 1 alleged Labor Code violation to declare penalties for any and all violations that may have been dedicated in opposition to other personnel even if they did not personally working experience them. Huff v. Securitas Sec. Servs. United states of america, Inc., 23 Cal. App. 5th 745 (2018).

In 2011, the United States Supreme Court docket held that the FAA preempts state legislation procedures invalidating class motion waivers in arbitration agreements. AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011). Concepcion concerned a customer course action and held that thanks to course actions’ procedural complexity, inclusion of absent-bash claims, and superior stakes, “[r]equiring the availability of classwide arbitration interferes with basic characteristics of arbitration and so produces a plan inconsistent with the FAA.” Id. at 344. Consequently, courts are necessary to compel individual, bilateral arbitration of any claims lined by an arbitration arrangement, except if the functions expressly concur to class or collective proceedings. See Lamps Furthermore, Inc. v. Varela, 139 S. Ct. 1407 (2019). The Supreme Court afterwards verified that Concepcion’s holding applies to arbitration agreements among companies and employees. Epic Sys. Corp. v. Lewis, 138 S. Ct. 1612 (2018).

However, the California Supreme Court held in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348 (2014), that pre-dispute waivers of an employee’s potential carry a “representative” PAGA motion violate California community policy and are unenforceable, which includes waivers identified in usually valid arbitration agreements. Even though PAGA statements resemble class steps in several respects, Iskanian held that the rule it established did not run afoul of the FAA. The Ninth Circuit subsequently held that Iskanian’s rule is constant with the FAA and Concepcion, albeit on distinctive grounds than Iskanian itself. Sakkab v. Luxottica Retail N. Am., Inc., 803 F.3d 425 (9th Cir. 2015).

As a final result, PAGA litigation exploded as plaintiffs’ attorneys sought to evade the influence of arbitration agreements requiring unique non-agent proceedings. The issue in Viking River Cruises was irrespective of whether Iskanian is preempted by the FAA.

Viking River Cruises’ Keeping

Angie Moriana worked for Viking River Cruises as a Sales Consultant. She executed an arbitration agreement that essential her to arbitrate any dispute she had with her employer and contained a “Class Action Waiver” delivering that in any arbitral proceeding, the get-togethers could not provide any dispute as a class, collective, or representative PAGA action. It also contained a severability clause specifying that if the waiver was located invalid, any class, collective, consultant, or PAGA motion would presumptively be litigated in court. But underneath that severability clause, if any “portion” of the waiver remained valid, it would be “enforced in arbitration.”

After her work ended, Moriana submitted a PAGA only action in state court alleging that she was not timely paid her ultimate wages upon separation and many other wage and hour claims predicated on violations experienced by other Viking personnel. Viking moved to compel arbitration of Moriana’s “individual” PAGA claim and to dismiss the other PAGA claims. The trial court docket denied the movement and the California Court of Attraction affirmed, holding that categorical waivers of PAGA standing are contrary to condition policy and that PAGA promises can not be break up into arbitrable individual statements and nonarbitrable “representative” statements.

The Supreme Court docket reversed and held that Iskanian’s ban on pre-dispute contractual waivers of PAGA “representative” statements is preempted in some respects, but not other individuals.

The Courtroom mentioned that California courts confusingly use the term “representative” to refer to two distinct ideas. On the a single hand, a PAGA claim is “representative” in the perception that the real occasion in fascination is the point out of California, and the worker-plaintiff functions as its agent. But PAGA also features what the Supreme Court characterised as a “claim joinder” rule allowing a plaintiff to accumulate civil penalties predicated on violations dedicated in opposition to other employees, and California courts use the term “representative” to describe this attribute of the statute as well.

The Supreme Court held that Iskanian’s rule prohibiting waiver of a “representative” assert in the first perception is reliable with the FAA. The Court docket held that Concepcion does not stand for the proposition that all sorts of proceedings in which a person social gathering represents another’s interests interfere with the elementary attributes of arbitration. Compared with a class action exactly where one plaintiff can symbolize the pursuits of possibly countless numbers of men and women, in a PAGA situation there is only a solitary represented occasion: the California Labor Workforce and Improvement Company. This fact, alongside with other procedural variances concerning PAGA actions and course actions, led the Court to distinguish Concepcion and keep that California may perhaps require that arbitration or litigation of PAGA claims be “representative” in the perception that the plaintiff represents the state’s pursuits.

On the other hand, the Courtroom found that Iskanian’s necessity that a PAGA plaintiff be permitted to be a part of alleged Labor Code violations versus other workforce is preempted when the process conflicts with the conditions of an arbitration agreement. The Court characterized claims for civil penalties arising from alleged Labor Code violations fully commited in opposition to the plaintiff as the plaintiff’s “individual PAGA claims” and held that an employer and employee might contractually concur to limit arbitration to just these “individual” claims and exclude “’representative’ (or possibly quasi-representative) PAGA promises arising out of occasions involving other staff.” The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that a PAGA action often is composed of a solitary, indivisible declare, finding as an alternative that Iskanian expected “compulsory” “joinder” of promises the functions hardly ever agreed to arbitrate in violation of the FAA.

The Courtroom concluded that the plaintiff’s specific PAGA promises must be compelled to arbitration underneath the conditions of the parties’ arrangement, and that the “representative” PAGA claims asserting violations from non-social gathering employees that remained in court docket must be dismissed. The holding that the non-particular person PAGA statements should be dismissed was based mostly on the Court’s interpretation of PAGA’s statutory standing rule necessitating a PAGA plaintiff to be an “aggrieved staff.” Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(a). PAGA defines an “aggrieved employee” as “any human being who was employed by the alleged violator and from whom a person or much more of the alleged violations was committed.” Cal. Lab. Code §§ 2699(c). The Supreme Court docket construed this to suggest that “a plaintiff can manage non-unique PAGA claims in an motion only by advantage of also retaining an unique declare in that motion,” so the Court’s holding all of the plaintiff’s personal PAGA statements were being arbitrable expected dismissal of her non-specific claims in courtroom.

What is Next?

Viking River Cruises is a dense and tricky determination that is specific to crank out considerably further ligation.  One significant open issue, determined by Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence, is whether or not California courts will figure out that the Supreme Court docket misconstrued PAGA’s standing prerequisite, and what will turn into of a plaintiff’s non-individual PAGA claims if they do and all individual promises are compelled to arbitration. Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence also instructed that the California legislature could modify PAGA’s statutory standing guidelines even if the Supreme Court docket interpreted them appropriately. For now, businesses really should be capable to compel arbitration of a PAGA plaintiff’s promises to the extent they occur from alleged Labor Code violations dedicated versus the plaintiff individually, and businesses will be in a solid placement to argue that this needs dismissal of the remaining PAGA promises in courtroom. Businesses must evaluate their arbitration agreements to assure that they have to have arbitration of employees’ unique PAGA claims constant with the language and concepts applied in Viking River Cruises, and that the agreements do not contain any language that could be construed as excluding PAGA statements or requiring litigation of specific PAGA promises in the celebration a complete “representative waiver” is observed invalid.


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