Justice Sotomayor's Class-Action Consolation Prize

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Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor



Photo:

Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Supreme Court final week dominated 8-1 (Viking River Cruises v. Moriana) that California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)—aka the trial lawyer enrichment act—doesn’t supersede class-action waivers. Now watch unions and trial legal professionals flip lemons into lemonade with a recipe from Justice

Sonia Sotomayor.

Viking worker

Angie Moriana

agreed when she was employed to arbitrate disputes individually. But after leaving the corporate she sued Viking beneath PAGA for failing to offer remaining wages inside 72 hours as required by state legislation. Ms. Moriana added to her grievance violations allegedly suffered by others.

PAGA is the bane of each employer in California. It lets staff stand in for the state Attorney General and sue employers over minor and unintentional labor violations. Workers who prevail hold 25% of the penalties in opposition to employers—a lot of which works to trial legal professionals—and the state will get 75%.

Viking moved to arbitrate Ms. Moriana’s particular person declare and dismiss these she filed on behalf of Viking staff. The U.S. Supreme Court lately has repeatedly affirmed that the Federal Arbitration Act broadly pre-empts inconsistent state legal guidelines, however California courts nonetheless dominated that Viking’s class-action waiver was unenforceable beneath PAGA.

At challenge earlier than the Supreme Court was whether or not PAGA could prohibit class-action waivers in employer arbitration agreements. The three liberal Justices joined 5 conservatives (with Justice

Clarence Thomas

within the dissent) in a slim resolution that Viking may compel Ms. Moriana to arbitrate individually.

But the Court additionally steered her claims on behalf of different staff may theoretically be severed and litigated in courtroom. The rub, as Justice

Samuel Alito

notes within the majority opinion, is that “PAGA provides no mechanism to enable a court to adjudicate” class-wide claims as soon as a person’s declare has gone to arbitration.

That means present state legislation doesn’t let staff certain by class-action waivers sue employers on behalf of different staff. But Justice Sotomayor in a concurrence invitations the state Legislature “to modify the scope of statutory standing under PAGA within state and federal constitutional limits.”

Translation: Democrats could amend state legislation to allow third events akin to unions to sue on behalf of staff. Trial legal professionals, unions and Democratic legislators pounced on her suggestion. Democratic state Sen.

Dave Cortese

stated he was “prepared to author legislation to respond” to the Court resolution.

Trial legal professional

Shannon Liss-Riordan,

who sues gig firms for a residing, advised the Legislature to “get busy.” Labor activist

Lorena Gonzalez

tweeted: “Well #CALeg- Justice Sotomayor just handed huge PAGA changes to you to modify the scope of statutory standing within state & federal constitutional limits in Viking River. We are here to help!” No doubt.

The Court’s Viking resolution could possibly be a pyrrhic victory for employers. It additionally appears to augur extra judicial pragmatism among the many three liberal Justices who joined the conservative majority on a slim ruling that lets unions and trial legal professionals stay to struggle one other day. And struggle they may.

Journal Editorial Report: The week’s greatest and worst from Kim Strassel, Kyle Peterson, Jillian Melchior and Dan Henninger. Images: AP/Shutterstock/SpaceX/Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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