In Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc., the Supreme Court today holds that mandatory arbitration of an employee’s individual claims against their employer doesn’t preclude the employee from pursuing in court a representative action under the Labor Code’s Private Attorneys General Act on behalf of similarly aggrieved employees. The decision is significant not only for the law stated, but also because the court disagrees with a recent opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana (2022) 213 L.Ed.2d 179 [142 S.Ct. 1906] disapproved the California court’s decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, cert. denied, CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC v. Iskanian (2015) 574 U.S. 1121, to the extent it had held a PAGA plaintiff couldn’t be compelled to arbitrate even the plaintiff’s individual claims. The Viking River majority also concluded, however, that arbitration of the individual claims required dismissal of the representative claims because “PAGA provides no mechanism to enable a court to adjudicate non-individual PAGA claims once an individual claim has been committed to a separate proceeding.” (Viking River, supra, 142 S.Ct. at p. 1925.)

The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu says the latter holding is wrong. And the court concludes it has the authority to make that decision: “Because ‘[t]he highest court of each State . . . remains “the final arbiter of what is state law” ’ [citation], we are not bound by the high court’s interpretation of California law” and “although the high court’s interpretations may serve as persuasive authority in cases involving a parallel federal constitutional provision or statutory scheme [citations], Viking River does not interpret any federal provision or statute similar to PAGA.”

The court reverses the Fourth District, Division Three, Court of Appeal unpublished opinion, but that’s because the opinion, filed before Viking River was decided, affirmed superior court orders including an injunction to prevent from proceeding the arbitration of the employee’s individual claims.


Throwing shade at SCOTUS?