ROBINSON AND THE ROAD AHEAD FOR PAGA CLAIMS
By Janine Braxton
Janine Braxton is an attorney at Martenson Hasbrouck & Simon who represents employers in state and federal courts with an emphasis on complex wage and hour representative PAGA and class actions. Janine also focuses on litigating individual discrimination and harassment claims and is a liaison to the California Lawyers Association’s Labor and Employment Executive Committee. Janine can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The California Court of Appeal recently applied the doctrine of res judicata as a bar to relitigating previously settled Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)1 claims against the same employer filed by different plaintiffs in Robinson v. Southern Counties Oil Co.2 This decision is certainly a win for California employers (particularly large California employers) who often find themselves mired in multiple wage and hour class and PAGA actions simultaneously. The interplay between duplicative and overlapping class and PAGA claims, in addition to the extent to which resolving one or some actions affect the remaining actions, is fact-specific and in some instances, very complex. The Robinson ruling, however, provides clear guidance regarding an aggrieved PAGA plaintiff’s ability to maintain PAGA claims following a prior PAGA settlement against the same employer based on the same Labor Code violations.
Robinson worked as a truck driver for Southern Counties Oil Co. from February 4, 2015 through June 14, 2017. After filing the required notice with the California Labor Workforce Development Agency (LWDA), he filed a PAGA action against Southern Counties Oil Co. in August 2018. Robinson alleged a series of common Labor Code violations, including failure to provide meal and rest breaks, failure to pay timely wages, failure to furnish complete and accurate wage statements, and failure to pay all wages due upon termination.