We have defended employers in Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) claims based on a number of violations of the California Labor Code. We work with employers in aggressively identifying potential bases for claims against them and, once identified, help to remedy all issues immediately. We help greatly reduce an employer’s monetary penalties.
PAGA Claims In General
The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) is authorized to assess and collect civil penalties for certain violations of the Labor Code. Because the LWDA and its constituent departments and divisions are unable to prosecute employers for every Labor Code violation, the Legislature enacted the “Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004” (PAGA), which allows employees to initiate a civil action against their employers. The aggrieved employee generally retains only 25% of any civil penalty recovery. The remaining 75% goes to the LWDA for education and enforcement purposes. PAGA does not limit the employee’s right to pursue other remedies available under state or federal law. PAGA applies only to civil penalties previously enforceable only by the State’s labor law enforcement agencies. It does not affect or apply to actions for statutory penalties recoverable directly by employees.
Exclusions From PAGA
- No action lies under PAGA for violating a “posting, notice, agency reporting, or filing requirement” of the Labor Code except mandatory payroll or workplace injury
- No action lies under PAGAto recover administrative and civil penalties in connection with workers’ compensation proceedings.
- No civil penalty is recoverable where the alleged violation is the California Labor and Workplace Development Agency’s failure to act.
Who May Maintain Action
An “aggrieved employee” may maintain a civil action to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations “on behalf of himself or herself and other current or former employees against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed.” “Aggrieved employee” means anyone who was employed by the alleged violator and against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed. Any suit under PAGA is a representative action. Plaintiff must sue “on behalf of himself or herself and other current or former employees” injured by the employer’s violations. An agreement prohibiting employees from seeking civil penalties on behalf of other employees under PAGA is unenforceable because it “is contrary to public policy.”