Million Seifu worked as a driver for Lyft, Inc.
Seifu filed a complaint against Lyft in July 2018, alleging a single Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) (Lab. Code, § 2698 et seq.) claim on behalf of the state of California and other similarly situated individuals who worked as drivers for Lyft in California.
He alleged that Lyft misclassified him and other drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, thereby violating multiple provisions of the Labor Code.
Lyft petitioned to compel arbitration of Seifu’s individual PAGA claim and stay proceedings in the trial court pending arbitration. Lyft asserted that the PAGA waiver in Seifu’s arbitration agreement was enforceable under the 2018 United States Supreme Court opinion in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis.
The trial court denied the motion, rejecting Lyft’s argument that the clause in the arbitration provision waiving Seifu’s right to bring a representative PAGA claim was enforceable.
The court of appeal affirmed the trial court, and held the Lyft arbitration agreement was unenforceable in the unpublished case of Seifu v Lyft.
Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis was one of three cases consolidated by the United States Supreme Court in 2017 that raised the issue of the Federal Arbitration Act’s preemptive effect over private employment arbitration agreements prohibiting class and collective actions.
In Iskanian Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, the California Supreme Court held “that an employee’s right to bring a PAGA action is unwaivable,” and that “where . . . an employment agreement compels the waiver of representative claims under the PAGA, it is contrary to public policy and unenforceable as a matter of state law.”
Numerous California Courts of Appeal have rejected the contention that Iskanian is no longer good law in the wake of Epic. On federal questions, intermediate appellate courts in California must follow the decisions of the California Supreme Court, unless the United States Supreme Court has decided the same question differently.
In this case the Court of Appeal agreed with the reasoning of the line of state cases, and conclude that Lyft’s argument regarding the PAGA waiver’s enforceability is without merit.