California Employee Fends Off Arbitration Clause in PAGA Suit

California employment laws afford workers a variety of protections and legal rights. One of the most essential rights employees have is the right to litigate certain claims against their employer.

The main alternative to court for resolving a dispute between an employee and an employer is arbitration. Arbitration uses a supposedly neutral third party to resolve disputes in and out of the employment context. Because arbitration often yields a faster resolution than a trial would, many employers require their employees to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of their employment. Once signed, arbitration agreements essentially waive an employee’s right to sue her employer in court.

A recent case helped cement the principle that California employees cannot be compelled to arbitrate claims under a major employment law in the state, even when they have signed an agreement to arbitrate disputes arising out of the employment.

In this case, a woman sued her employer under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). PAGA empowers California employees to sue their employer for various labor violations, like failing to pay overtime in accordance with the state’s wage and hour laws.

The law is a powerful tool for employees because it enables them to obtain civil penalties—meaning money—for labor violations as if they were a state agency.

In the case at hand, an employee brought several PAGA claims against her employer in court. The employer tried to force the employee to resolve the dispute through arbitration in accordance with the agreement she had signed. This was in spite of the fact that earlier this year, a California court explained that aggrieved employees have the right to file their PAGA lawsuits in court, even if they signed an arbitration agreement before the dispute arose.

If the court had accepted the employer’s position, it would have represented a major step back for employees seeking to have their day in court under PAGA. Instead, the court reaffirmed the principle that PAGA litigants cannot be forced to arbitrate. In fact, even if a worker has expressly waived the right to file a PAGA claim in court, the courts will not enforce such a waiver because it is so contrary to public policy and the reason for PAGA’s enactment in the first place.

PAGA is an important statute for California workers. It covers a variety of labor violations and, as is clear from this case, allows those grievances to be heard in court in the vast majority of cases. Partnering with the right employment lawyer can help ensure that your PAGA claim will be heard and ultimately vindicated in the courtroom.

Consult a California Employment Law Attorney Today

If you have been the victim of unfair treatment at work, you may have a case against your employer. For over two decades, the California employment law firm of The Nourmand Law Firm, APC has dedicated itself to protecting hard-working employees like you against employers seeking to take advantage of their position. Whether you have been the victim of workplace harassment, wage theft, physical injury, or some other harm at the hands of your employer, our firm is prepared to hear your story and fight for a judgment that will make you whole. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call 310-553-3600 today. You can also complete our online form to get started.

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