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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Williams v. Superior Court (Pinkerton Governmental Services): Trial Court Cannot Split PAGA Action and Compel Arbitration of Individual Issues

Williams v. Superior Court (6/9/15) --- Cal.App.4th ---, is one of those rare opinions that is written clearly and concisely. The introduction gives you almost all you need to know:
Petitioner Andre Williams filed a single-count representative action pursuant to the Private Attorney General Act, Labor Code section 2699 et seq. (PAGA), alleging that real party in interest Pinkerton Governmental Services, Inc. (Pinkerton) violated various provisions of the Labor Code [related to rest periods]. In response, Pinkerton moved to enforce petitioner’s waiver of his right to assert a representative PAGA claim, or alternatively, for an order staying the PAGA claim, but sending the “individual claim” that petitioner had been subjected to Labor Code violations to arbitration pursuant to a written agreement. The trial court denied the motion to enforce the waiver, but granted the alternative relief. Williams petitioned this court for a writ reversing the trial court’s order, arguing that it violated Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 384 (Iskanian). We agree with the trial court that under Iskanian, the waiver of a right to assert a representative PAGA claim in any forum is unenforceable. However, we conclude that petitioner’s single cause of action under PAGA cannot be split into an arbitrable “individual claim” and a nonarbitrable representative claim. Accordingly, we grant the petition.
A little additional detail: Pinkerton argued, and the trial court agreed, that there was a "threshold dispute" as to whether Pinkerton denied the plaintiff rest periods, and that Pinkerton had the right to compel the plaintiff to arbitrate this dispute. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument.

The opinion is available here.

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