Private Attorney General Act in California
Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA)
California passed PAGA in 2004 as a mechanism for dealing with brazen employers who chose to blatantly disregard the state’s fair-wage laws. Then, as is the case now, the state simply does not have the resources to go after each and every offender. PAGA authorizes employees who have been financially harmed by offending employers to act as their own private attorneys general—with the experienced legal counsel of their California PAGA attorneys—and bring cases against their employers just like the state attorney general would. While every PAGA lawsuit is unique, all such cases follow this process:
- The employee who has been denied wages must file a claim with the state regarding the wage issue at hand.
- The claim must outline all the details related to the employer’s violations of the California Labor Code and/or California Wage Order—or violations of the laws regulated by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- The State of California then has 65 days in which to notify the wronged employee whether it is going to launch its own investigation into the case.
- If not, and if the employee has not heard back from the state after 65 days, the wronged employee can move forward by filing his or her own PAGA lawsuit, which is an action that the employee brings on behalf of themselves or on behalf of a larger group of similarly wronged employees.
If you believe you may have a PAGA case, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney who specializes in PAGA claims in California.
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PAGA vs. Class Actions
PAGA claims are often brought by a group of employees, which makes them similar to class action cases. There are, however, important differences. PAGA cases are not required to fulfill all the legal requirements set forth in class action lawsuits, which makes them a more expedient tool for wronged employees.
The benefits of PAGA
PAGA was created to protect the rights of employees in California. These benefits include:
- Allowing employees to seek compensation for those financial losses that relate to labor violations.
- Affording California’s employees personal agency that they otherwise might not have, including the ability to effect positive change in the workplace by seeking justice.
- Encouraging employers facing PAGA lawsuits to become amenable to changing their unfair policies and practices in an effort to avoid further lawsuits and their attendant penalties.
- Making positive changes that help all the company’s employees—including future employees.
- Leveling the playing field when it comes to competition among businesses. When Company A cheats employees out of fair wages, it has an unfair advantage over Company B because it can sell the widgets that both companies manufacture for less. When all businesses are held to the same standards regarding payroll, it eliminates any unfair advantages between rival companies. In other words, those employers who are strictly adhering to the state’s labor laws are not going to lag behind simply because they are committed to doing the right thing.
- Generating revenue for the State of California while private attorneys take on the workload. On the whole, PAGA is a win-win for both the state and employees.
Common employment law violations
PAGA can be effectively implemented to address a wide range of employment law violations, including:
- Employers who fail to pay their employees the state’s minimum wage
- Employers who fail to pay their employees the appropriate rate for overtime
- Employers who fail to provide their employees with mandatory meal breaks and rest breaks
- Employers who classify their employees incorrectly in order to pay them less
- Employers who fail to reimburse their employees for business expenses
- Employers who miscalculate their employee’s pay rates
- Many other situations