Federal judge grants motion to prevent woman in wage dispute from filing a similar lawsuit in state court

By Sandra Lane | Jul 3, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently granted a motion by Engineering Associates (EA) seeking a permanent injunction against a former employee in a wage dispute, preventing her from pursuing causes of action in California state court that were adjudicated.

SAN FRANCISCO –  U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California recently granted a motion by Engineering Associates (EA) seeking a permanent injunction against a former employee in a wage dispute, preventing her from pursuing causes of action in California state court that were adjudicated.  

Plaintiff Debbie Silvia alleged that her former employers, EA, had violated California’s wage and hour laws during her employment. She claimed that she had worked under a Lead Building / Construction Inspector classification and that she performed inspection work within the guidelines of California Labor Codes. 

EA moved for summary judgment on all of her claims arguing that Silvia’s prevailing wage theory failed because the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that she performed work within the scope of the California Labor Codes.

As stated in the court documents, in opposition to summary judgment, Silvia raised a prevailing wage theory that was not found in her original complaint, initial disclosures, or interrogatory responses. She claimed that she performed utility locating work within the scope of the Field Surveyor or Laborer Group 3A classification.   

The court held that Silvia was barred by Rules 26 and 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure from changing her prevailing wage theory to oppose summary judgment. As the evidence was insufficient to support the prevailing wage theory upon which plaintiff had filed the action, judgment was entered in EA’s favor. Silvia then appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  

In addition, on the same day she filed her appeal, Silvia filed a new complaint in Santa Clara Superior Court. The state complaint names the same defendants as listed on appeal. Plaintiff asserts that she performed the work of a utility locator, advancing the fatally tardy theory of her federal case.

She stated four claims in her state action including failure to provide/and or authorize meal and rest period, unpaid wages in violation of California Labor Code sections 226.7 and IWC wage orders (first cause of action), a claim pursuant to Labor Code 203 for willfully failing to pay final wages (second cause of action), and a claim pursuant to Labor Code sections 226 and 1174 for failure to provide itemized wage statements (third cause of action). She also alleged unfair business practices.

In her On June 22 ruling, Corley stated, “Now pending before the court is the motion of for a permanent injunction to enjoin plaintiff from pursuing causes of action in California state court that were adjudicated in this action.”

“Having reviewed the parties’ briefing, and having had the benefit of oral argument on June 14, 2018, the court grants EA’s motion,” Corley said. “Claim preclusion bars Ms. Silvia’s claims from being pursued in any court, including the state court, and the application of claim preclusion is an exception to the Anti-Injunction Act. The court in its discretion enjoins the state court proceedings given plaintiff’s litigation conduct in this action and her current simultaneous pursuit of the same causes of action in two jurisdictions.”

In conclusion, Corley said, “For the reasons described above, EA’s motion for permanent injunction enjoining Ms. Silvia’s state court action against EA is granted.”

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