It's been two weeks since the California Legislature adjourned, bringing the second half of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session to a close. A number of employment-related bills are awaiting Governor Jerry Brown's signature as the September 30th deadline to either veto or sign the bills quickly approaches. Several PAGA related bills are not in the batch under consideration by Governor Brown.
California rolled out a unique approach to enforcing the State's Labor Code when it enacted the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA) codified in Cal. Lab. Code § 2698, et seq. PAGA allows a private citizen to pursue civil penalties on behalf of the State of California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) provided the formal notice and waiting procedures of the law are followed.
More specifically, PAGA claims allow current and former employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties that would otherwise only be recoverable by the government. It is used for wage-and-hour and safety violations, and the lawsuits are filed on behalf of the named employee and other “aggrieved” current and former employees.
While similar to a “class-action lawsuit”, a PAGA claim is considered a “representative lawsuit,” and it can be pursued without meeting all the requirements of class certification. That means it is easier for the employee's attorney to pursue, but still has the consequences of aggregating multiple employees.
The concept behind the law is that the state's labor agency does not have the resources to handle the penalty claims. The statute authorizes private attorneys to step into the state's shoes to pursue those cases and entitles them to recover reasonable attorney's fees if the employee prevails.
PAGA Bills That Didn't Make the Cut This Session
- AB 1317 – This bill expanded on last year's bill, AB 1506, which was signed by the Governor, that gave employers a limited right to cure certain wage-statement violations before an aggrieved employee could sue under PAGA. This bill would have provided an employer a right to cure any violation of the Labor Code before an employee could sue and would have provided an appropriation to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to establish new positions to review and investigate PAGA cases.
- AB 2461 – would have limited violations an aggrieved employee was authorized to bring and required specific procedures before bringing an action.
- AB 2462 – would have provided employers with a right to cure before an employee brought a civil action.
- AB 2463 – would have established a penalty cap of $1,000 for each aggrieved employee.
- AB 2464 – would have authorized a court to dismiss an action if the court found the aggrieved employee suffered no appreciable physical or economic harm.
- AB 2465 – would have required the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to investigate alleged violations and determine if there was a reasonable basis for a civil action.
While the proposals above didn't make it out of legislative committees, changes in PAGA law are inevitable. As seen by the introduction of these bills, there remains numerous benefits as a result of PAGA's original passing and our firm continues to prosecute these claims as the best way to create change in corporate America. To further discuss PAGA claims, or a potential claim on your behalf, feel free to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or contact us via email.