OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana regarding a key California worker protection law, the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA):
“Every worker is entitled to dignity and respect on the job,” said Attorney General Bonta. “For decades, PAGA has been a critical part of the state’s efforts to help make that a reality. Whether it’s protecting overtime pay or taking on unsafe working conditions, PAGA strengthens California’s ability to tackle labor violations. While today’s decision is disappointing and adds new limits, key aspects of PAGA remain in effect and the law of our state. Workers can continue to bring claims on behalf of the State of California to protect themselves and, in many instances, their colleagues all across California. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to stand with workers to fight for their rights everywhere.”
For nearly two decades, PAGA has augmented the state’s enforcement resources by deputizing affected employees to pursue civil penalties for Labor Code violations as proxy for the State of California. PAGA has been an integral part of the state’s labor enforcement scheme and has played 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. As a result of today’s decision, employment agreements that completely waive workers’ right to bring PAGA claims remain unenforceable. However, the court also held that workers can be bound by agreement to only pursue their individual PAGA claims through arbitration, rather than on behalf of themselves and other impacted workers. Under California law, employers remain prohibited from requiring or forcing workers as a condition of employment to sign agreements that waive claims over violations of the Labor Code, including claims made under PAGA.