Juarez, et al. v. Villafan, et al.

Filing 36

ORDER APPRROVING Settlement of PAGA Claims, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 8/24/17. (Hellings, J)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 OCTAVIANO JUAREZ et al., 12 13 14 15 16 No. 1:16-cv-00688-DAD-SAB Plaintiff, v. ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT OF PAGA CLAIMS RAFAEL VILLAFAN, DEMI AG. INC., and SANGHA SUNDIP SINGH, (Doc. No. 31) Defendants. 17 18 On July 5, 2017, plaintiffs and defendant Sangha Sundip Singh filed a joint application for 19 approval of a settlement agreement between those parties and for the court to retain jurisdiction 20 over that agreement. (Doc. No. 31.) A hearing on this matter was held August 15, 2017. 21 Attorneys Aida S. Macedo and Estella M. Cisneros appeared on behalf of plaintiffs, and attorney 22 Tracy A. Agrall appeared on behalf of defendant Singh. Having considered the parties’ request 23 and heard oral argument, and for the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the request for 24 approval of settlement of plaintiffs’ PAGA claims. 25 26 BACKGROUND Plaintiffs commenced this action on May 13, 2016, alleging the following claims: (l) 27 violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”); (2) violation of the Migrant and Seasonal 28 Agricultural Worker Protection Act; (3) failure to pay wages owed; (4) failure to pay minimum 1 1 wages; (5) liquidated damages for failure to pay minimum wage; (6) failure to pay overtime; (7) 2 failure to provide wage statements; (8) failure to pay all wages when due; (9) failure to provide 3 tools and equipment; (10) failure to allow inspection or copying of employment records; (11) 4 failure to allow inspection or copying of personnel records; (12) failure to allow inspection under 5 California Labor Code § 1695(a)(5); (13) violation of California Labor Code § 2810; (l4) 6 violation of California Labor Code § 1695.7; (l5)Violation of California’s Unfair Competition 7 Law; and (16) violation of the Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs 8 and defendant Singh have now agreed to and executed a settlement agreement covering all of 9 plaintiffs’ claims, including their PAGA claim. (See Doc. No. 31-1.) The settlement agreement 10 provides a total settlement amount of $25,000.00 for settlement of all claims, to be paid over a 11 five-month period. (Id. §§ I–II.) This amount includes payment of $0.00 for claims brought 12 under the FLSA and PAGA. (Id. at 1.) In exchange, defendant Singh is to be released from 13 liability for all claims arising out of or related to the claims raised in this action. (Id. § IV.) The 14 parties also note that plaintiffs plan to file an unopposed motion for entry of default judgment 15 against the remaining defendants named in this action. (See id. at 1.) 16 LEGAL STANDARD 17 In 2003, the California Legislature enacted the Private Attorney General Act, California 18 Labor Code §§ 2698 et seq., after declaring (i) that adequate financing of labor law enforcement 19 was necessary to achieve maximum compliance; (ii) that staffing levels for state labor law 20 enforcement agencies have declined and were unable to keep up with a growing labor market; 21 (iii) that vigorous assessment and collection of civil penalties provides a meaningful deterrent to 22 unlawful conduct; and (iv) that it was therefore in the public interest to allow aggrieved 23 employees, acting as private attorneys general, to seek and recover civil penalties for Labor Code 24 violations. 2003 Cal. Stat. 6629. Under PAGA, an “aggrieved employee” may bring an action 25 for civil penalties for labor code violations on behalf of herself and other current or former 26 ///// 27 ///// 28 ///// 2 1 employees. Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(a).1 A plaintiff suing under PAGA “does so as the proxy or 2 agent of the state’s labor law enforcement agencies.” Arias v. Superior Court, 46 Cal. 4th 969, 3 986 (2009). The PAGA statute requires trial courts to “review and approve” any settlement of PAGA 4 5 claims. Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(l)(2).2 In the absence of authority governing the standard of 6 review of PAGA settlements, the LWDA provided some guidance in a recent case. See 7 California Labor and Workforce Development Agency’s Comments on Proposed PAGA 8 Settlement, O’Connor v. Uber Techs., Inc., No. 3:13-cv-03826-EMC (N.D. Cal. Jul. 29, 2016), 9 ECF No. 736 at 2–3.3 There, where both class action and PAGA claims were covered by a 10 proposed settlement, the LWDA stressed that 11 when a PAGA claim is settled, the relief provided for under the PAGA be genuine and meaningful, consistent with the underlying purpose of the statute to benefit the public and, in the context of a class action, the court evaluate whether the settlement meets the standards of being “fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate” with reference to the public policies underlying the PAGA. 12 13 14 15 Id.; see also Order, Salazar v. Sysco Cent. Cal., Inc., No. 1:15-cv-01758-DAD-SKO (E.D. Cal. 16 Feb. 2, 2017), ECF No. 25 at 4 (citing the same with approval); O’Connor v. Uber Techs., Inc., 17 201 F. Supp. 3d 1110, 1133 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (same). 18 Recognizing the distinct issues presented by class actions, this court is nevertheless 19 persuaded by the LWDA’s reasoning expressed in O’Connor and therefore adopts its proposed 20 standard in evaluating the PAGA-related settlement agreement now before the court. 21 Accordingly, the court will approve a settlement of PAGA claims upon a showing that the 22 1 24 An “aggrieved employee” is defined as “any person who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.” Cal. Lab. Code § 2699(c). 25 2 23 26 27 28 The proposed settlement must also be submitted to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) at the same time it is submitted to the court. Id. 3 See also id. at 3 (“The LWDA is not aware any existing case law establishing a specific benchmark for PAGA settlements, either on their own terms or in relation to the recovery on other claims in the action.”). 3 1 settlement terms (1) meet the statutory requirements set forth by PAGA, and (2) are 2 fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate4 in view of PAGA’s public policy goals. 3 DISCUSSION Here, in accordance with the statute’s requirements, the parties have submitted a copy of 4 5 their settlement agreement to the LWDA. (See Doc. No. 31 at 2.) As noted above, the settlement 6 agreement explicitly states that plaintiffs are not recovering any amounts for claims brought under 7 PAGA. To date, the LWDA has not voiced its opposition or otherwise commented on the 8 settlement in this case. Furthermore, at the hearing on this matter, plaintiffs represented that they 9 believe they have been adequately compensated for parallel claims through the settlement 10 agreement.5 Under these circumstances, and in light of the total amount of monetary relief 11 provided for under the settlement agreement as a whole, the court finds that the settlement 12 agreement as it relates to plaintiffs’ PAGA claims is fair, reasonable, and adequate in light of the 13 public policy goals of PAGA. 14 CONCLUSION 15 Accordingly, 16 1. The parties’ joint application for approval of the settlement agreement (Doc. No. 31) is 17 granted; 2. The parties’ settlement agreement is approved with respect to plaintiffs’ PAGA 18 19 claims; 20 3. Pursuant to California Labor Code § 2699(l), plaintiffs are directed to submit a copy of 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 this order to the LWDA within ten days of the date of this order; and 4 The court’s determination as to fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy may involve a balancing of several factors including but not limited to the following: the strength of plaintiffs’ claims; the risk, expense, complexity, and likely duration of further litigation; the amount offered in settlement; the extent of discovery completed, and the stage of the proceedings; and the experience and views of counsel. See Officers for Justice v. Civil Serv. Comm’n of City & Cty. of San Francisco, 688 F.2d 615, 625 (9th Cir. 1982). 5 Plaintiffs’ counsel further noted that with this settlement, twenty-two of the aggrieved employees—fifteen in this litigation and seven in a separate action brought through the LWDA— will have obtained some form of relief with respect to their claims. An additional two to four aggrieved employees may exist, but to date, counsel has not been able to make contact with them. 4 1 4. Plaintiffs shall, by no later than October 6, 2017, file a motion for entry of default 2 judgment against the remaining defendants, or alternatively, file a status report 3 apprising the court of its intention to proceed in this action.6 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. 5 Dated: August 24, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 The court will also retain jurisdiction over this action until at least October 6, 2017. To the extent any party believes it is necessary or appropriate for the court to retain continued jurisdiction over this action for the purposes of ensuring the parties have complied with the terms of the settlement agreement, they are directed to notify the court at that time. 5

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?