Attorney General Bonta Files California Supreme Court Brief in Defense of Key Worker Protection Law

Monday, December 5, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Friend-of-the-court brief calls on high court to reject anti-labor arguments put forward by Uber

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed an amicus brief before the California Supreme Court in Adolph v. Uber Technologies in support of the plaintiff’s efforts to bring suit against Uber under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). PAGA is one of California’s premier tools in the fight against worker abuse. The law deputizes employees to pursue and recover civil penalties on behalf of the state for labor law violations committed against themselves and their fellow workers. In the current case, Uber incorrectly asserts that an aggrieved employee is unable to bring a PAGA claim in court if their own claim has been sent to arbitration. In the friend-of-the-court brief, the Attorney General highlights PAGA’s critical importance, reiterates that the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that state courts have the last word with regard to this area of state labor law, and calls on the high court to reject the anti-labor arguments put forward by Uber.

“PAGA remains a critical tool for standing up for the rights of workers across California,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Whether it’s to address wage theft or health hazards, we all benefit when the state has more mechanisms to ensure robust enforcement of our labor laws. PAGA helps ensure workers have safe, fair, and dignified workplaces. My office respectfully calls on the California Supreme Court to reject Uber’s anti-labor arguments that threaten to drastically undermine our state’s worker protections.”

For nearly two decades, PAGA has augmented the state’s enforcement resources by deputizing affected employees to pursue civil penalties for labor law violations as proxy for the State of California. PAGA notices and claims also inform and supplement the direct enforcement efforts of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). PAGA is an integral part of the state’s labor enforcement scheme and it plays a particularly important role in ensuring the fair and legal treatment of some of the state’s most vulnerable workers, including those in the agricultural, garment, and frontline service industries. Fundamentally, PAGA actions are state law enforcement actions, with the state retaining 75% of penalties recovered and aggrieved employees receiving the remainder. In 2019 alone, PAGA reportedly generated over $88 million in civil penalties for California. The civil penalties recovered in PAGA actions help fund the LWDA in carrying out its regulatory responsibilities related to covered employers, without passing those costs on to taxpayers generally or diverting funds from other priorities.

In the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta asserts:

  • Nothing in PAGA’s text and statutory context suggests that statutory standing is lost if an aggrieved employee’s individual PAGA claims are sent to arbitration;
  • PAGA’s purpose and legislative history compel an employee-protective reading of the act’s statutory standing requirements; and
  • The California Supreme Court should hold that an aggrieved employee who has been compelled to arbitrate individual claims under PAGA maintains standing to pursue PAGA claims for co-workers in court.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

# # #