In a recent decision, the California Court of Appeal held that the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction applies to a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) representative action in Shaw v. The Superior Court of Contra Costa County. The decision is good news for employers facing overlapping PAGA complaints.

Underlying Facts

On July 21, 2022, Plaintiff Shaw provided notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) under PAGA of alleged violations of the Labor Code against Beverages & More!, Inc (BevMo). Plaintiff alleged Labor Code violations based premised on a specific policy. Over one year prior, however, Plaintiff Paez filed a PAGA action against BevMo regarding the same policy.

BevMo sought to stay the Shaw case under the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction. Under the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction, when two or more courts have subject matter jurisdiction of a dispute, the court that first asserted jurisdiction assumes it to the exclusion of other courts.

Shaw filed a petition to coordinate her action with the Paez action and asked for the appointment of her counsel as “liaison counsel” for the aggrieved employees. Shaw and BevMo agreed that the PAGA claims in Shaw’s case and the Paez case overlapped completely.

The trial court in Shaw stayed the action until either the Paez action was resolved, or the coordination motion was granted. The coordination motion was denied, as was Shaw’s motion to intervene in the Paez case.

Court of Appeal Ruling

The California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District held that the trial court did not err in applying exclusive concurrent jurisdiction to the overlapping PAGA claim. The opinion held that there was no evidence of legislative intent to alter the common law.

Impact for Employers

While employers previously sought to abate or stay overlapping PAGA actions prior to Shaw, there had not been definitive authority that the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction applied. This decision should help employers better manage overlapping PAGA matters by ensuring that the initial case can proceed before the latter filed overlapping actions.