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Rojas-Cifuentes v. Super. Ct., 2020 WL 7488653 (Dec. 21, 2020)

Plaintiff brought a PAGA claim along with class action allegations and an individual claim, and the trial court dismissed the PAGA claim on summary adjudication (with leave to amend the civil complaint) for failure to properly allege the facts and theories supporting his notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) and therefore failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Specifically, the trial court found that: five of the eight paragraphs in the PAGA notice were merely recitations of the statute or statements “which ‘mimic’ the statute”; Plaintiff did not specify who was harmed by the supposed Labor Code violations; and Plaintiff did not allege whether he was Defendant’s employee or give any indication of his employment status.

The Third Appellate District issued a writ of mandate setting aside the order, following the logic of Williams v. Super. Ct. (2017) 3 Cal.5th 531 and its progeny that the “facts and theories” requirement of a PAGA notice did not need to “satisfy a particular threshold of weightiness” and merely needed to put the employer and LWDA on notice of the potential need for an investigation[i] and finding that Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts (both ultimate facts as well as supporting evidentiary facts, even if not exhaustive) and theories to support at least some of the alleged violations. Moreover, Plaintiff had identified that all of Defendant’s “current and former California non-exempt employees” were affected, which, while broad, was enough to give notice of the aggrieved employees. And while the Court acknowledged that Plaintiff could have done better than noting he, too, was an “aggrieved employee” to clarify his employment status, such omission was not fatal; the Court compared that missing datum to a civil complaint that does not plead the exact date the alleged misconduct occurred (“And we see nothing in section 2699.3 suggesting that factual allegations in PAGA notices must exceed those normally found sufficient in complaints”). Thus, summary adjudication – which disposes of the entire cause of action – was inappropriate here.

The Rojas court agreed with Defendant that a PAGA claim contains multiple potential causes of action[ii] but declined to apply that to the writ at issue because Defendant had not moved for summary adjudication as to each of the eight parts of the PAGA claim but rather treated the PAGA claim as one cause of action and sought to dismiss the PAGA claim in its entirety. Because a motion seeking summary adjudication of a cause of action may not be granted unless it “completely disposes of [the] cause of action,”[iii] since at least some of Plaintiff’s allegations were properly alleged in the PAGA notice the PAGA claim properly survived.

[i] Williams, supra, 3 Cal.5th at 545.

[ii] Silva v. See’s Candy Shops, Inc. (2016) 7 Cal.App.5th 235, 257.

[iii] Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 437c(f)(1).