Under The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), employees can file lawsuits against their employers for certain violations of the labor code. If successful, these employees can recover civil penalties for themselves, fellow employees, and the state of California. PAGA allows employees to file class action suits without meeting normal class action requirements.
Under PAGA, penalties are split between aggrieved employee(s) (25%) and The California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) (75%).These penalties were previously enforceable only by the state.
Penalties for PAGA are either:
- The amount described in statutes, or
- $100 per initial violation per pay period, with $200 for each subsequent penalty.
Additional individuals other than the corporate employer may be liable for PAGA claims.
Arbitration agreements cannot waive a plaintiff’s right to representative action through PAGA.
What is Required for PAGA Plaintiffs?
To be a PAGA plaintiff an individual must meet both of the following conditions:
- Be currently or previously employed by the company that allegedly violated the Labor Code, and
- Have suffered one or more violations of the Labor Code.
PAGA plaintiffs do not have to experience the same violations as the other aggrieved employees in this representative action. Further, even if a plaintiff settles their individual claims, they may still have legal standing to bring a PAGA action.
Applicable Labor Code Violations
Plaintiffs can bring lawsuits for any of the following violations of the California Labor Code under PAGA:
- Working hour.
- Meal and rest period.
- Suitable seating.
- Workplace safety.
- Worker misclassification.
- Inaccurate wage statements.
Administrative Exhaustion Requirements
Before bringing a PAGA lawsuit against their employer, a plaintiff must first provide written notice to the state of California online and to their employer via regular mail of the following:
- Which Labor Code sections were allegedly violated.
- Facts and theories which support the alleged violation.
The LWDA has 60 days to determine whether to investigate the claim and provide written notice of their action, and up to 180 days to issue a citation.
Employers have a 33-day window to cure, or fix, certain alleged violations, including:
- Misclassification of employees.
- Failure to adopt an injury and illness prevention program.
- Some wage statement violations.
After curing their violations, employers must send a notice of cure to the LWDA and the aggrieved employee.
PAGA: Important Settlement Information
PAGA has a one-year statute of limitations. This means that the plaintiff must file their notice of an alleged Labor Code violation with the LWDA within one year or sooner of when it occurred. Employment claims typically have a three-year statute of limitations, so this is a benefit.
Settlements with PAGA are binding on all aggrieved employees for the same violations and the same time periods. Once resolved, another aggrieved employee cannot bring another action of the same violation occurring at the same time.