Plaintiff’s wage-and-hour suit on behalf of an opt-in class under the Fair Labor Standards Act was barred by the res judicata effect of the settlement and judgment in a prior suit on behalf of the same employees against the same employer, brought as a class action, under California’s Labor Code.  The settlement agreement in the prior action included a release of all claims based on the factual allegations in the complaint, including claims for wages, wage statements, meal and rest breaks, overtime compensation and vacation pay as well as restitution and penalties under PAGA.  A class action settlement and judgment meets the final and on the merits element of res judicata.  Under California’s primary rights approach to res judicata, the prior action was on the same claim—as it involved and released claims based on the same injury to the same right, even if the federal suit was based on a different legal theory and statute.  The fact that the FLSA allowed only opt-in as opposed to opt-out classes allowed under California law was insufficient to avoid res judicata.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Berzon, J.); August 16, 2018; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22782