In Moorer v. Noble L.A. Events Inc. (February 27, 2019), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) definitively answered the question of whether the twenty-five percent share of a PAGA action that goes to “aggrieved employees” can be retained by the plaintiff bringing the action as a type of relator share. No, you can’t do that:
Moorer contends that because a PAGA action is a type of qui tam action, under which the private citizen enforces a statute on behalf of the government, the 25 percent of the civil penalties not allocated to the government should be distributed to the aggrieved employee who brings the PAGA action. Although Moorer asserts policy arguments for why this approach would serve the goals of PAGA, the Supreme Court in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, supra, 59Cal.4th 348 (Iskanian) held otherwise. As the Supreme Court explained, a PAGA representative action “conforms to the traditional criteria” for bringing a qui tam action, “except that a portion of the penalty goes not only to the citizen bringing the suit but to all employees affected by the Labor Code violation.” (Iskanian, at p.382;see Williams v. Superior Court (2017) 3Cal.5th 531, 545 (Williams) [PAGA “deputiz[es]employees harmed by labor violations to sue on behalf of the state and collect penalties, to be shared with the state and other affected employees”].)
Slip op., at 7-8.