California Appellate Court Affirms Trial Court’s Ability To Control Discovery

The Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) is a unique statute in California that lets any aggrieved worker stand in the shoes of the State and seek penalties for virtually any violation of the Labor Code. And the aggrieved employee can seek the penalties on behalf of all other workers injured by the same Labor Code violations.

A former Marshall’s employee filed a PAGA action to seek penalties for failing to provide meal and rest breaks, for failing to provide accurate paystubs, and other violations of the Labor Code. Immediately after the case was filed, the plaintiff sought discovery of all of Marshall’s hourly workers in California. These employees claimed the plaintiff were witnesses to the Labor Code violations. The trial court held that such discovery was premature, particularly in light of the privacy interest that these individuals had. The trial court wanted the plaintiff and Marshalls to conduct other discovery first to determine how important these other employees would be as witnesses. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling. The appellate court explained that the trial court’s ordering of discovery in this way was a reasonable approach under the circumstances.

The ruling does not change the reach of PAGA and will probably have little practical effect on PAGA litigation. Instead, lawyers may find this precedent useful in all sorts of cases where a more ordered approach to discovery makes sense.

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