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Uber Technologies v. Gregg

California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) authorizes an “aggrieved” employee whose employer has violated the state’s Labor Code to sue the employer to enforce the Labor Code on behalf of the state. A PAGA plaintiff may bring both individual claims based on violations the employer has committed against the plaintiff and non-individual claims based on violations the employer has committed against other employees. Under a state-law contract rule that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, 596 U.S. 639 (2022), an employee’s right to bring individual and non-individual PAGA claims cannot be prospectively waived. The FAA requires, however, a court to enforce an employee’s agreement to submit individual PAGA claims to arbitration while retaining the ability to bring non-individual claims in court.

In 2018, Johnathon Gregg filed a PAGA lawsuit against his employer, Uber, in California state court, alleging that Uber had violated the Labor Code as a result of misclassifying him and his fellow Uber drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Pointing to an arbitration provision in Gregg’s employment contract, Uber moved to compel arbitration of Gregg’s individual PAGA claim. At the same time, Uber argued that once Gregg’s individual claim had been submitted to arbitration, his non-individual claims should be dismissed because he would no longer have standing under California law to pursue them. When Uber appealed the denial of its motion, a California court of appeal held that, under Viking River, Gregg’s individual PAGA claim must be arbitrated but that Gregg nonetheless had standing to pursue his non-individual claims in court. The court held that Gregg’s non-individual claims should be stayed pending the outcome of the arbitration of his individual claim.

Uber petitioned the Supreme Court to review the state court’s ruling on standing. Co-counseling with attorneys at Outten & Golden LLP, Public Citizen represented Gregg in opposing Uber’s petition. Among other arguments, the brief explains that the petition should be denied because the state-court opinion interpreted state law and the California Supreme Court—which in another case adopted the same view of PAGA standing as the court of appeal in this case—is the final authority on California law. In addition, the state court’s state-law holding is consistent with Viking River’s holdings on federal law.