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Williams v. Super. Ct.

Filed 7/13/17 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA MICHAEL WILLIAMS, ) ) Petitioner, ) ) S227228 v. ) ) Ct.App. 2/1 B259967 THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ) LOS ANGELES COUNTY ) ) Los Angeles County Respondent; ) Super. Ct. No. BC503806 ) MARSHALLS OF CA, LLC, ) ) Real Party in Interest. ) ____________________________________) This is a representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State of California and aggrieved employees statewide for alleged wage and hour violations. (See Lab. Code, § 2698 et seq., the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, hereafter PAGA.) In the course of discovery, plaintiff Michael Williams sought contact information for fellow California employees. When the defendant employer, Marshalls of CA, LLC, resisted, Williams filed a motion to compel. The trial court granted the motion as to the store where Williams worked, but denied it as to every other California store, conditioning any renewed motion for discovery on Williams sitting for a deposition and showing some merit to the underlying action. Williams petitioned the Court of Appeal to compel the trial court to vacate its discovery order. The Court of Appeal denied the writ, and we granted review to consider the scope of discovery available in PAGA actions. In the absence of privilege, the right to discovery in this state is a broad one, to be construed liberally so that parties may ascertain the strength of their case and at trial the truth may be determined. Our prior decisions and those of the Courts of Appeal firmly establish that in non-PAGA class actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff purports to represent is routinely discoverable as an essential prerequisite to effectively seeking group relief, without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good cause. Nothing in the characteristics of a PAGA suit, essentially a qui tam action filed on behalf of the state to assist it with labor law enforcement, affords a basis for restricting discovery more narrowly. Nor, on this record, do other objections interposed in the trial court support the trial court‘s order. We reverse. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Marshalls of CA (Marshalls) is a retail chain with stores throughout California. Williams worked for Marshalls at its Costa Mesa store beginning in January 2012. In 2013, Williams sued Marshalls under PAGA. The operative complaint alleges Marshalls failed to provide Williams and other aggrieved employees meal and rest periods or compensation in lieu of the required breaks. (Lab. Code, §§ 226.7, 512, subd. (a).) According to the complaint, on a companywide basis, Marshalls understaffed stores, required employees to work during meal periods without compensation, and directed managers to erase meal period violations from its time records. Marshalls also adopted a ―systematic, company[]wide policy‖ to pay no premiums for missed breaks. Relatedly, Marshalls failed to provide Williams and other aggrieved employees timely wage payment or complete and accurate wage statements. (Lab. Code, §§ 204, 226, subd. (a).) Finally, Marshalls adopted a policy and practice of requiring Williams 2 and other aggrieved …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court