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Hogue & Belong in the News

Hogue & Belong Defeats Morgan Lewis and Scores Major Victory In Class Action Against P.F. Chang’s 

On May 21, 2015, District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal ruled that Defendant P.F. Chang’s removal of a complaint alleging violations California’s Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) was improper under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA.”)

California PAGA actions authorizes aggrieved employees, acting as private attorneys general, to recover civil penalties from their employers for violations of the Labor Code.  In essence, PAGA “deputizes” employees by allowing them to pursue the same civil monetary penalties that would otherwise only be available to state law enforcement agents.  A PAGA is a representative action, not a class action.

Defendant’s counsel, Rebecca D. Eisen and Theresa Mak of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, filed a borderline frivolous Notice of Removal, arguing that Plaintiffs’ representative action was really a “secret” class action complaint.  Unmoved by that argument, Judge Bernal stated, “the complaint does not request class action status….the Complaint is expressly captioned ‘PAGA REPRESENTATIVE ACTION COMPLAINT,’ and the body of the Complaint refers to the suit as PAGA action fourteen times, while never referring to the claims as a class action” and it simply “…does not appear that Plaintiffs are attempting to sneak a disguised class action past Defendant.”

“When asked what he thought about P.F. Chang’s removal, Bryce Dodds stated, “Honestly, I’m surprised that a seasoned defense firm like Morgan Lewis would even attempt something like this.  He continued: In our view, this removal was so misguided that we actually filed a Rule 11 Motion for sanctions at the same time as our remand.”

While the Court ultimately denied Plaintiffs’ request for sanctions, Judge Bernal made it abundantly clear that PAGA complaints remain a unique avenue for California employees to recover damages against an employer who violates labor codes and are not subject to Federal jurisdiction under CAFA.

To view the Order Granting Remand, click here.

POSTED BY JOHN SCHREIBER ON DECEMBER 17, 2014 IN BUSINESS

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Four women filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against the P.F. Chang’s restaurant chain, alleging they were subjected to pervasive sexual harassment.

A representative of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based P.F. Chang’s did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Hunter Kidner, her sister, Samantha Kidner, Lizette Vargas and Madelene Geledzhyan filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. Their allegations include sexual harassment, hostile work environment, failure to prevent discrimination, and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The alleged harassment occurred at P.F. Chang’s restaurants in Beverly Hills, Chino Hills, Anaheim and Riverside, according to the lawsuit. Only Geledzhyan still works for the chain, the suit states.

Hunter Kidner began working at the P.F. Chang’s in Beverly Hills in August 2012 and transferred at the end of that year to Chino Hills, the suit states. She was 16 when hired and within the first few days of her employment male kitchen workers began making kissing and cat call noises toward her and other female employees, the suit states.

Hunter Kidner also alleged she was harassed by a supervisor in his 50s at Chino Hills, the suit states.

She was fired Sept. 6, shortly after she announced she planned to call P.F. Chang’s corporate office “to complain about the pervasive sexual harassment that was taking place,” according to the lawsuit.

Vargas became employed by P.F. Chang’s as a server at age 23, the suit states. Her supervisor began “looking and speaking to her in a manner that was personal and sexually motivated,” the suit states.

Samantha Kidner worked as a hostess at the Chino Hills restaurant from January through June, 2014, the suit states. One of her male managers boasted to her about how many women he had sex with and called her “Babe,” the suit states.

“The sexual harassment was so aggressive and notorious at P.F. Chang’s that Samantha and other female employees often feared for their physical safety,” the suit states.

A male employee once shook the door of the women’s restroom while Samantha Kidner and another female employee were exchanging uniform tops, the suit states.

Geledzhyan has worked at P.F. Chang’s since November 2011 and held various cooking positions at Chino Hills and Anaheim, the suit states. One of her male supervisors asked her if she would like to come to his home after work and promised her advancements if she was his “good little helper,” the suit states.

P.F. Chang’s restaurants are divided into the kitchen area, called the back of the house, and the front of the house, where the patrons dine, the suit states.

The law firm representing the plaintiffs, San Diego-based Hogue & Belong, obtained a nearly $1 million arbitrator’s award on behalf of two other women who worked at P.F. Chang’s in the San Diego area, according to the firm’s website.

— City News Service

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