PAGA lawsuits keep getting easier to bring—and one court just took it a step further. Employees no longer need to bring an individual PAGA claim to have standing to sue on a representative basis.

Let’s first get a lay of the land:

  • A PAGA claim consists of an individual PAGA claim and a representative PAGA claim.
  • To bring a PAGA claim, an “aggrieved employee” must have worked for the alleged [company] violator and personally sustained just one Labor Code violation within the limitations period.

In Balderas v. Fresh Start Harvesting, Inc., 101 Cal. App. 5th 533 (2024), the plaintiff sued her former employer on behalf of other employees but not in her individual capacity (that is, she brought only a representative PAGA claim, which is abnormal). The Court of Appeal, overturning the trial court, departed from federal authority, Viking River Cruises v. Moriana, and held that an employee need not have an individual PAGA claim to proceed on a representative basis. In part, the Court of Appeal rationalized its irrational decision saying that PAGA’s intent is to allow employees to act on behalf of the state even if they haven’t alleged individual PAGA violations, potentially subjecting employers to more PAGA claims. Thus, the Court of Appeal bucked the federal courts and adopted a wide interpretation of the recent Adolph v. Uber Eats case (holding that standing only requires prior employment and a single violation).

While this is just one Court of Appeals case, and others may not follow it, the practical effect is that California employers will be subject to more PAGA claims and will have a difficult time arguing that a representative PAGA claim should be stayed while the individual PAGA claim proceeds in arbitration. It seems like there isn’t that much left for the courts to do to twist the PAGA knife.