United States District Court, S.D. California
JACK HERNANDEZ, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
BEST BUY STORES, LP and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants.
ORDER APPROVING SETTLEMENT
JEFFREY T. MILLER United States District Judge.
31, 2017, Plaintiff Jack Hernandez filed an unopposed motion
for approval of his settlement with Defendant Best Buy
Stores, LP (“Best Buy”). (Doc. No. 87.) The court
finds the matter suitable for decision without oral argument
pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1) and, for the following
reasons, grants Plaintiff's motion.
initiated this case on August 2, 2013, in San Diego Superior
Court. Best Buy removed it to this court a few months later.
(See Doc. No. 1.) The operative complaint alleges
that Plaintiff and other salaried general managers of
Defendant's “Best Buy Mobile” locations were
misclassified as exempt employees and, as a result,
improperly denied overtime pay and meal periods.
(See Doc. No. 19.) As part of his prayer for relief,
Plaintiff seeks civil Private Attorneys General Act
(“PAGA”) penalties on behalf of himself, the
State of California, the Labor and Workforce Development
Agency (“LWDA”), and the putative class of
Plaintiff initially filed the case as a class action, he did
not pursue class certification. Instead, he filed a motion
for permissive joinder of three dozen other general managers.
The court denied that motion, finding “that because the
36 proposed plaintiffs worked at different stores for
different lengths of time, their claims would require
individualized and fact-intensive analysis.” (Doc. No.
61 at 6.) In the wake of that decision, those other general
managers filed a multi-plaintiff action in San Diego Superior
Court, Baroga et al. v. Best Buy Stores, LP, Case
nearly four years after it began, Plaintiff and Best Buy have
reached an agreement resolving this case in its entirety,
including Plaintiff's representative PAGA
claim. In the instant motion, Plaintiff asks the
court to approve the parties' settlement of that claim.
Labor Code section 2699(a) provides:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any provision of
[the Labor Code] that provides for a civil penalty to be
assessed and collected by the Labor and Workforce Development
Agency or any of its departments, divisions, commissions,
boards, agencies, or employees, for a violation of this code,
may, as an alternative, be recovered through a civil action
brought by an aggrieved employee on behalf of himself or
herself and other current or former employees . . . .
essence, PAGA “authorizes an employee to bring an
action for civil penalties on behalf of the state against his
or her employer for Labor Code violations committed against
the employee and fellow employees.” Iskanian v.
CLSTrans. Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348, 360 (2014).
A plaintiff who brings a PAGA claim “does so as the
proxy or agent of the state's labor law enforcement
agencies.” Arias v. Superior Court, 46 Cal.4th
969, 986 (2009). Because the “plaintiff represents the
same legal right and interest as state labor law enforcement
agencies, . . . a judgment in an employee's action under
[PAGA] binds not only that employee but also the state labor
law enforcement agencies.” Id. In addition,
the judgment “binds all those, including nonparty
aggrieved employees, who would be bound by a judgment in an
action brought by the government.” Id.
employer employs one or more employees, as is the case here,
the civil penalty is $100 for each aggrieved employee per pay
period for the “initial violation” and $200 for
each aggrieved employee per pay period for each
“subsequent violation.” Cal. Lab. Code §
2699(f)(2). Seventy-five percent of the civil penalties are
distributed to the LWDA, and the remainder is distributed to
the aggrieved employee(s) who initiated the claim.
Id. § 2699(i). When PAGA claims are settled,
the trial court must “review and approve” the
settlement. Id. § 2699(1). In so doing, the
court must consider whether the proposed “PAGA
settlement is fair and adequate in view of the purposes and
policies of the statute.” O'Connor v. Uber
Techs., Inc., 201 F.Supp.3d 1110, 1135 (N.D. Cal. 2016).
Those purposes and policies include “benefit[ting] the
public by augmenting the state's enforcement
capabilities, encouraging compliance with Labor Code
provisions, and deterring noncompliance.” Id.
forth in the settlement agreement,  the parties have agreed to
resolve Plaintiff's representative PAGA claim for $5,
000, with $3, 750 (seventy-five percent) going to the LWDA
and $1, 250 (twenty-five percent) going to Plaintiff. The
parties assert that these amounts are “fair and
reasonable” and declare that the settlement is the
product of hard-fought litigation, including extensive
discovery and at least one mediation session. However,
because the settlement serves to “fully release and
forever discharge” Best Buy from any and all PAGA
claims “that were asserted or could reasonably have
been asserted” in this case, (see Doc. No.
87-2 at 7-8), the court must evaluate, and ultimately
approve, the settlement.
support his contention that $5, 000 is fair and reasonable,
Plaintiff first notes that during the one-year statutory
claim period for PAGA penalties, he worked just fourteen pay
periods. What's more, “any alleged violation [by
Best Buy] would likely be treated as an ‘initial
violation' under PAGA”-and thus subject to a
penalty of $100 per pay period rather than $200-because