Rojas-Cifuentes v. Sup. Ct.: MSA Based on “Insufficient Facts and Theories” in PAGA Notice Letter Overturned on Writ of Mandate

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In Rojas-Cifuentes v. The Superior Court of San Joaquin County, Cal. Ct. App. 3d Dist., No. C085643, Dec. 21, 2020 (“Rojas-Cifuentes”) (slip op. available here), the Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate directing the Superior Court of San Joaquin County to set aside its order granting summary adjudication of an employee’s claim under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) in favor of the defendant, American Modular Systems, Inc. (“AMS”), and enter a new order denying the MSA. AMS’s motion was brought on the grounds that Plaintiff Rojas-Cifuentes’ PAGA notice letter to AMS and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency failed to include sufficient “facts and theories” (Cal. Lab. Code § 2699.3) to support his claimed Labor Code violations.

The “facts and theories” requirement for a PAGA notice letter, however, is not high and provides little fodder for employers seeking a procedural loophole to PAGA claims. The purpose of the PAGA notice requirement is to afford the Labor and Workforce Development Agency “the opportunity to decide whether to allocate scarce resources to an investigation.” Slip. op. at 6 (citing Williams v. Superior Court, 3 Cal.5th 531, 545-546 (2017)). Thus, to require a PAGA notice letter to “satisfy a particular threshold of weightiness . . . would undercut the clear legislative purposes the act was designed to serve.” Id. Following cases such as Williams and Brown v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 28 Cal.App.5th 824 (2018), Rojas-Cifuentes found “few ‘facts and theories’ are needed to satisfy PAGA’s notice requirement.” Id. at 7. Rojas-Cifuentes also confirmed that a PAGA notice letter need only allege broadly a class of “aggrieved employees” such as “current and former California non-exempt employees of AMS.” Id. at 10.

Considering the legislative purposes of PAGA, as cases such as Rojas-Cifuentes, Williams, and Brown all confirm, challenges to the sufficiency of PAGA notices have no legitimate purpose. They harm the interests of the State of California, in collecting civil penalties; of employees, as victims of Labor Code violations; and our overburdened judiciary, forcing the courts to address repeated, groundless challenges to the PAGA statute.

Authored by:
Robert Friedl, Senior Counsel