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PAGA STANDING CLARIFIED

In Huff v. Securitas Services USA, Inc., 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 474 (decided May 23, 2018), the Court of Appeal held that an employee bringing a claim pursuant to the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“the PAGA”) need only be affected by some, but not all, of the Labor Code violations alleged.  

Huff worked as a security guard for Securitas.  Huff brought a representative action on behalf of similarly situated security guards, including those meeting the definition of a temporary service employee.  As Huff did not meet the definition of a temporary service employee, the trial court initially granted Securitas’s motion under for judgment in its favor on claims affecting temporary employees and held that Huff did not have standing to bring PAGA claims on behalf of the temporary employees.  When Huff moved for a new trial, and upon further consideration, the trial court recognized its error and granted Huff’s new trial motion.  Securitas appealed. 

Discussing the issue, the Court of Appeal explained that under the PAGA, an “aggrieved employee” can pursue penalties for Labor Code violations on behalf of other current and former employees, and defines an aggrieved employee as someone who suffered “one or more of the alleged violations” of the Labor Code for which penalties are sought.  Cal. Labor Code § 2699 (c).  Because Huff could establish that he was affected by at least one of the Labor Code violations alleged, Huff could pursue penalties on behalf of other employees for additional violations.  2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 474, *8-9.

Rejecting Securitas’s argument to the contrary, the Court of Appeal explained: 

The proposition that PAGA allows an employee to pursue penalties only for the type of violation he or she has suffered is directly at odds with the provision that an action may be brought by an employee against whom “one or more” of the alleged violations was committed. Legislative history, even when appropriately considered, cannot be used to contradict language that the Legislature decided to include in the statute.  (Citations.) Had the Legislature intended to limit the recovery of a PAGA plaintiff suing in a representative capacity to only the penalties for employees affected by the same Labor Code violation as the plaintiff, it would have said so in the statute.

Id. at 12-13.

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