In Capriole v. Uber Techs., No. 20-16030, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 22738, at *35-40 (9th Cir. Aug. 2, 2021), the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that injunctive relief designed to benefit only a defined class of individuals is not “public” injunctive relief under Blair.
Nevertheless, Plaintiffs argue that their request for preliminary relief classifying them as employees is one for “public injunctive relief,” which they argue cannot be waived contractually under Massachusetts law. Plaintiffs’ primary support for this argument is a California Supreme Court decision, McGill v. Citibank, N.A., 393 P.3d 85 (Cal. 2017), which held that waiver of public injunctive relief “in any contract—even a contract that has no arbitration provision” is “unenforceable under California law.” Id. at 94. Analyzing three California consumer protection statutes, the court explained that public injunctive relief is “injunctive relief that has the primary purpose and effect of prohibiting unlawful acts that threaten future injury to the general public.” Id. at 87 (first citing Cruz v. PacifiCare Health Sys., Inc., 66 P.3d 1157, 1164-65 (Cal. 2003); and then citing Broughton v. Cigna Health. of Cal., 988 P.2d 67, 74 (Cal. 1999)). “Its ‘evident purpose’ . . . is ‘to remedy a public wrong,’ ‘not to resolve a private dispute,’ and any benefit to the plaintiff requesting such relief ‘likely . . . would be incidental to the general public benefit of enjoining such a practice.'” Id. at 94 (second omission in original) (internal citation omitted) (quoting Broughton, 988 P.2d at 76 & n.5). As such, McGill reasoned, the availability of class-wide public injunctive relief cannot be waived by a “predispute arbitration agreement.” Id. at 94. The McGill court was also careful to note that the three statutes recognized as containing a public injunction provision—the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), the Unfair Competition Law, and the False Advertising Law—all involve protections against misleading and deceptive practices, where an injunction will provide a meaningful benefit primarily (and potentially only) to the public “because the plaintiff has ‘already been injured, allegedly, by such practices and [is] aware of them.'” Id. at 90 (alteration in original) (quoting Broughton, 988 P.2d at 76 n.5). Plaintiffs invoke McGill to argue that the injunctive relief they seek, reclassification as employees on a class-wide basis, similarly cannot be waived under Uber’s Arbitration Provision. But their argument is unavailing. To start, as the Massachusetts district court noted, it is debatable whether the relevant Massachusetts law, the Wage Act, even provides for public injunctive relief. See Capriole, 2020 WL 1323076, at *3 (“The [Wage Act] explicitly contemplates class-wide relief but includes no provisions that allow for injunction for the public benefit.”). That said, the Massachusetts Attorney General submitted an amicus brief in the Massachusetts district court in support of Plaintiffs’ position, arguing that the law under review in McGill—specifically the CLRA—has parallel language to the Earned Sick Time Law and thus does provide for public injunctive relief that cannot be waived. And, as Plaintiffs correctly note, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that as “the department charged with enforcing the wage and hour laws,” the Attorney General’s interpretation of those laws “is entitled to substantial deference, at least where it is not inconsistent with the plain language of the statutory provisions.” Smith v. Winter Place LLC, 851 N.E.2d 417, 421 (Mass. 2006). However, we need not resolve how the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court would rule on this question because, even assuming class-wide public injunctive relief, as conceptualized in McGill, were available under Massachusetts law and that such relief may not be contractually waived, Plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief cannot be remotely characterized as “public injunctive relief” as we have recognized it, or as has any other court for that matter. As we noted in Blair, in which we held California’s recognition of public injunctive relief was not preempted by the FAA, “[o]ne key difference between a private and public injunction is the primary beneficiary of the relief.” 928 F.3d at 824. On the one hand, “[p]rivate injunctions ‘resolve a private dispute’ between the parties and ‘rectify individual wrongs,’ though they may benefit the general public incidentally.” Id. (quoting McGill, 393 P.3d at 89). “By contrast, public injunctions benefit ‘the public directly . . . ,’ but do not otherwise benefit the plaintiff . . . .” Id. (quoting McGill, 393 P.3d at 90). Against this standard, the district court correctly concluded that Plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief is not one for “public injunctive relief.” Here, the relief sought by Plaintiffs—to “enjoin Uber from misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors, thus entitling them to the protections of Massachusetts wage laws, including paid sick leave”—is overwhelmingly directed at Plaintiffs and other rideshare drivers, and they would be the “primary beneficiar[ies]” of access to overtime and minimum wage laws. Blair, 928 F.3d at 824. The public health implications of paid sick leave, which would not even begin to accrue for months, only “benefit the general public incidentally.” Id. Such relief plainly does not constitute “public injunctive relief,” and McGill would therefore not even control if we were applying California law. Id. Indeed, California state courts applying McGill have reached the same conclusion with regard to employment laws, including one decision directly addressing rideshare drivers. See, e.g., Rogers v. Lyft, Inc., No. CGC-20-583685, 2020 WL 2532527, at *4 (Cal. Super. Ct. Apr. 30, 2020) (“The request for injunctive relief directing Lyft to reclassify its drivers is likewise directed to Plaintiffs and other Lyft drivers as individuals, not to the general public . . . . [It] therefore seeks private, not public, injunctive relief.”); Clifford v. Quest Software Inc., 251 Cal. Rptr. 3d 269, 278 (Ct. App. 2019) (holding that “public interest and any incidental benefit to the public from ensuring Quest’s compliance with wage and hour laws d[id] not transform Clifford’s private UCL injunctive relief claim into a public one under the definitions of public and private injunctive relief articulated by our Supreme Court in Broughton, Cruz, and McGill”), review denied, No. S258542 (Cal. Nov. 13, 2019). Because we agree with the district court that Plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief does not constitute “public injunctive relief,” we also agree that Plaintiffs cannot evade the Class Action Waiver in Uber’s Arbitration Provision, even assuming Massachusetts law provided for such non-waivable relief. Likewise, because Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief regarding their classification was properly a matter for the arbitrator, the district court did not err by declining to reach the merits of Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction under Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).