Employment actions for penalties pursuant to the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) have exploded in recent years. PAGA, which allows individual employees to step in the shoes of the California Labor Commissioner and recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves and other so-called “aggrieved employees,” is popular among the plaintiffs’ bar because (in addition to providing for attorneys’ fees) the PAGA statute does not require certification. For years, this has allowed the plaintiffs’ bar to use PAGA as a procedural vehicle to represent huge and disparate groups of employees without considering whether their claims could be proved using common proof.
But the proliferation of unruly PAGA actions may soon end, thanks to a recent decision from the California Court of Appeals in Fred Wesson v. Staples The Office Superstore LLC, which confirmed that courts have discretion to strike PAGA claims if such claims will be unmanageable at trial. This important decision provides California employers with a powerful tool to defeat PAGA actions that would require individualized inquiries instead of common proof.