Employer Successfully Challenges PAGA Claim Based on Insufficient Notice Letter

By Christine Mueller

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (“Ninth Circuit”) dismissed an employee’s Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claim because the plaintiff failed to comply with the PAGA’s notice requirements.

In Alcantar v. Hobart Service et al., the plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against his employer alleging that he was not compensated for time spent commuting to job sites and was not provided with proper meal and rest breaks. The complaint included a representative PAGA action. The Ninth Circuit permitted the plaintiff to proceed with his class claim for commute time, but not for his meal and rest break class claims. The court’s analysis regarding the PAGA claim is of particular interest.

The employer moved for summary judgment on the PAGA claim, arguing that the plaintiff had not complied with the PAGA’s notice requirements. In order to bring a representative action under the PAGA, an employee must first give written notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the employer of the specific provisions of the California Labor Code alleged to have been violated, including the facts and theories to support the alleged violation. In Alcantar, the plaintiff’s PAGA letter contained a series of legal conclusions, e.g., “Plaintiff contends that Defendant failed to pay wages for all time worked.” The Ninth Circuit held that the letter lacked factual allegations and theories of liability and therefore did not provide enough information to assess the seriousness of the alleged violations or what policies or practices were being complained of. The court affirmed summary judgment of the PAGA claim.

When defending a PAGA claim, employers should carefully scrutinize the notice letter to determine its sufficiency, and consider a challenge to the claim if the letter is deficient.

Christine M. Mueller represents employers in litigation and administrative matters, and advises employers and human resources professionals on developing and enforcing appropriate employment policies. The material contained in this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. Pettit Kohn expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.