Labor Law -- 2017

Williams v. S.C. (Marshalls of CA)   (California Supreme Court)

Discovery limits under California's Private Attorney General Act

The plaintiff was employed at a Marshalls store in California for a little more than one year before bringing a lawsuit against Marshalls under the California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), The plaintiff alleged that Marshalls failed to provide its employees with meal and rest breaks or premium pay in lieu thereof to provide accurate wage statements, to reimburse employees for necessary business-related expenses, and to pay all earned wages during employment.

PAGA allows plaintiffs to discover the names and contact information of other "aggrieved employees" at the beginning of the proceedings if the plaintiff first shows good cause, since employees have a protectable privacy interest.

The NAM filed a brief urging the court to uphold longstanding discovery rules and to limit the delegation of state enforcement power to private plaintiffs. A plaintiff must have specific facts showing good cause to justify expensive and intrusive discovery, and the court appropriately exercised its discretion to allow only incremental discovery.

The court did not agree with the NAM’s position. Instead, it stated that it is sufficient for the plaintiff to allege (1) that a violation occurred, (2) that the plaintiff was harmed, and (3) that a defendant employer had a systematic policy causing injury to employees across the state. This new standard lowers the bar to discovery in PAGA claims.

Related Documents:
NAM amicus brief  (May 6, 2016)


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