Amaro v. Anaheim Arena Mgmt., LLC, 69 Cal. App. 5th 521 (2021)

In 2017, Irean Amaro filed this wage and hour class action and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claim against her employer; there already were two existing class actions asserting the same claims, which were filed in 2014 and 2016.  After Amaro reached a global settlement in her lawsuit, which included the claims asserted in the two earlier-filed lawsuits, an employee from one of the two earlier lawsuits (Rhiannon Aller) intervened to object to the Amaro settlement.  Ultimately, the trial court approved the settlement over Aller’s objections.  On appeal, Aller argued that the court’s approval of the settlement was erroneous because the settlement agreement was overly broad.  The Court of Appeal held that the release was overbroad in that it covered “potential claims… in any way relating” to the facts pled in the complaint, thus potentially including claims that may only be tangentially related to the allegations in Amaro’s complaint.  The Court further held, however, that the FLSA’s written consent requirement does not apply to a release in a class settlement of state wage and hour claims.  Finally, the Court held the trial court had not abused its discretion in finding the settlement was not the product of a collusive reverse auction (i.e., a process by which the defendant picks the most ineffectual class counsel with which to negotiate a weak settlement that precludes all the other class action claims).

The Court held there is nothing “inherently wrong” with the settlement process that was followed in this case, which resulted in a settlement being reached that bypassed the plaintiffs from the earlier-filed lawsuits.  Also, there was no evidence of unfairness to the class or misconduct to support a collusive reverse auction finding.  See also Turrieta v. Lyft, Inc., 2021 WL 4472080 (Cal. Ct. App. 2021) (PAGA plaintiffs from separate actions do not have standing to move to vacate a judgment that resulted from a settlement to which they were not parties; trial court properly denied plaintiffs’ intervention request because the settlement was fair and adequate); Uribe v. Crown Bldg. Maint. Co., 2021 WL 4962724 (Cal. Ct. App. 2021) (intervenor had standing to challenge PAGA settlement; settlement should not have included unreimbursed cell phone expenses because PAGA notice did not encompass such a claim).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.