Many employers have arbitration agreements wherein employees agree to waive the right to file a lawsuit against the employer under various laws, including the California’s Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”). Employers were disappointed when the California Supreme Court ruled last June that such waivers of PAGA lawsuits are invalid, at least in state court. See Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014).
However, a number of federal trial judges in the Golden State subsequently disagreed and ruled that PAGA waivers are enforceable in their courts. See, e.g., Ortiz v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., E.D. Cal. Case No. 2:13-cv-01619 (Sept. 30, 2014). Because a PAGA waiver still may be enforceable against an employee in federal court, many employers have either kept or inserted such waivers in their arbitration agreements.
This week it became apparent that including a PAGA waiver may destroy an employer’s ability to require arbitration in any type of lawsuit, be it under PAGA or some other theory (e.g., alleged discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wage-and-hour or meal-and-rest-period violations). Specifically, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a PAGA waiver will invalidate an entire arbitration agreement in state court if that agreement also includes a non-severability clause. See Montano v. The Wet Seal Retail, Inc., Cal. Ct. App. Case No. B244107 (Jan. 7, 2015).
Continue Reading The New PAGA-Waiver Trap Door