Contreras v. Superior Court of Los Angeles CountyAnnotate this Case
A Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) plaintiff may not be compelled to arbitrate whether he or she is an aggrieved employee. Petitioners filed suit against Zum under PAGA, alleging that Zum misclassified them and others as independent contractors and thus violated multiple provisions of the California Labor Code. The trial court granted Zum's motion to compel arbitration and ordered into arbitration the issue of arbitrability of petitioners' suit.
The Court of Appeal reversed the order compelling arbitration, concluding that the delegation of the question of arbitrability to an arbitrator frustrates the purpose of PAGA and is therefore prohibited under California law. The court explained that the California Supreme Court in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, and several Courts of Appeal are uniform in holding that PAGA claims are not waivable and are not arbitrable. Furthermore, under that case law and in light of the very nature of a PAGA claim, a court – not an arbitrator – must decide all aspects of the claim. The court further explained that the only exception is when the state, as real party in interest, has consented to arbitration. However, the state did not consent here. The court concluded that the "preliminary" question of whether petitioners are "aggrieved employees" under PAGA may not be decided in private party arbitration.