California Attorney General Rob Bonta this month filed three lawsuits protecting citizens’ rights – one pro-labor, one pro-environment and a third pro-transgender rights.
One, filed Nov. 10, sued the manufacturers of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, for endangering public health, causing irreparable harm to the state's natural resources, and engaging in a widespread campaign to deceive the public.
In the lawsuit, Bonta alleges that these manufacturers, including 3M and DuPont, knew or should have known that PFAS are toxic and harmful to human health and the environment, yet continued to produce them for mass use and concealed their harms from the public.
As a result, these toxic "forever chemicals" are pervasive across California’s bays, lakes, streams, and rivers; in its fish, wildlife, and soil; and in the bloodstream of 98% of Californians, the lawsuit claims.
“PFAS are as ubiquitous in California as they are harmful,” said Bonta. “As a result of a decades-long campaign of deception, PFAS are in our waters, our clothing, our houses, and even our bodies. The damage caused by 3M, DuPont, and other manufacturers of PFAS is nothing short of staggering, and without drastic action, California will be dealing with the harms of these toxic chemicals for generations. Today’s lawsuit is the result of a years-long investigation that found that the manufacturers of PFAS knowingly violated state consumer protection and environmental laws. We won't let them off the hook for the pernicious damage done to our state.”
PFAS are a class of thousands of toxic chemicals. This lawsuit concerns seven common PFAS that have been detected in drinking water supplies, surface waters, and groundwater in California.
PFAS are widely used in consumer products including food packaging, cookware, clothing, carpets, shoes, fabrics, polishes, waxes, paints, and cleaning products, as well as in firefighting foams designed to quickly smother liquid fuel fires. These so-called "forever chemicals" are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and known to leach into groundwater.
Even after 3M ceased manufacturing PFOS in response to pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it worked to control and distort the science on PFAS and to minimize their dangers to the environment and human health.
Today PFAS are pervasive in California. Data from the State Water Resources Control Board shows that PFAS are in drinking, ground, and surface waters, with especially high levels near airports, refineries, chrome plating facilities, military facilities, and landfills. PFAS have been detected in at least 146 public water systems serving 16 million Californians. These chemicals are also present in aquifers that provide millions of Californians with water through unregulated domestic wells.
In another lawsuit, filed Nov. 11, Bonta joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit against Indianapolis Public Schools for preventing transgender students from participating in school sports. In the amicus brief, the coalition pushes back on efforts to prohibit a 10-year-old transgender girl in Indiana from playing on her elementary school’s girls’ softball team, highlights the pervasive harms caused by transgender discrimination, and urges the appellate court to uphold the trial court’s decision.
The case, which is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, centers around Indiana’s efforts to implement a new, discriminatory law targeting the ability of transgender women and girls to play school sports. The statute singles out transgender women and girls by categorically barring them from participating in sex-segregated sports consistent with their gender identity.
No poaching of workers
McDonald’s is the target of another Bonta lawsuit, in which he joined a coalition of 21 attorneys general in an amicus brief opposing McDonald’s attempt to evade liability for past alleged efforts to stifle competition and undercut wages through the use of “no-poach” agreements.
No-poach provisions prevent franchise operators from hiring or recruiting the employees of another franchise operator, artificially reducing competition for labor and making it more difficult for employees, many of whom are low-wage workers, to seek better pay and benefits at competing franchises.
In the amicus brief filed in an appeal from a class action case against McDonald’s before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the coalition highlights the harms of no-poach agreements and urges the appellate court to reverse the lower court’s decision.
“No-poach agreements like those employed by McDonald’s in this case stifle competition and directly undercut wages,” said Bonta. “In California, no-poach agreements are not enforceable and members of the public should immediately report them if they see them. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to fight to support businesses and workers who do things the right way. No corporation is above the law. My office urges the appellate court to follow the law and give the plaintiffs an opportunity to make their case.”