LaCour v. Marshalls of Cal., LLC, 2023 WL 5543622 (Cal. Ct. App. 2023)

Plaintiff Robert LaCour, a former “loss prevention specialist” for Marshalls, appealed from a judgment in favor of his former employer and certain affiliated entities.  Marshalls filed a demurrer arguing that because LaCour’s employment with Marshalls ended in May 2019, he had only a year and 65 days to bring a PAGA claim, and having missed that deadline, his PAGA action was untimely.  Marshalls also filed a motion to strike.  The trial court overruled Marshalls’ demurrer and granted its motion to strike in part.  Marshalls later filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which was granted.

Marshalls argued that since LaCour’s employment ended in May 2019, he had up to a year and 65 days to file his civil complaint (i.e., August 2020 at the latest), taking into account the 65-day tolling period.  However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PAGA statute of limitations was tolled from April 6, 2020, through October 30, 2020, which had the effect of extending the deadline to file with the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) a notice of a PAGA claim until November 24, 2020.  Marshalls argued that the emergency rule was “unconstitutional and prohibited by statute,” but the appellate court rejected this argument, concluding that the state had the authority to toll the statutes of limitation for civil cases, including PAGA.

In addition, the trial court had granted the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings because it found that a previous PAGA judgment based upon a settlement agreement had a preclusive effect.  However, the appellate court rejected this argument and reversed the previous judgment.  The appellate court held that in the earlier case, the initial LWDA notice dealt narrowly with a complaint regarding paying employees for off-the-clock work at the end of their shifts.  However, the settlement release encompassed a wide swath of Labor Code violations not mentioned in the initial notice, unfairly limiting LaCour from pursuing his claims, which were broader.