Two recent court decisions expand the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) … Again. In Raines v. Coastal Pacific Food Distributors (CA3 C083117 5/22/18), the court held employees can bring Labor Code Private Attorney General Act claims for pay stub violations without suffering an injury even if the violations were unintentional. In Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. (CA6  H042852 5/23/18) the court held that an employee could bring such an action for violations that never effected the employee.

PAGA Does Not Require an Actual Injury

Labor Code section 226 requires employers to provide pay stubs with specific information on each pay stub. An employee “suffering injury” from a “knowing and intentional” violation of Labor Code section 226 can sue the employer for penalties. According to Raines v. Coastal, the employee can sue the employer under PAGA even if the employee suffered no injury. and does not have to plead or prove the failure was “knowing” or “intentional.” In essence, it makes Labor Code section 226 a strict liability statute.

As we explain, a representative PAGA claim for civil penalties for a violation of section 226(a) does not require proof of injury or a knowing and intentional violation.  This is true even though these two elements are required to be proven when bringing an individual claim for damages or statutory penalties under section 226(e).

PAGA Plaintiffs Can Seek Penalties For Harms They Never Suffered

PAGA allows an aggrieved employee to bring a lawsuit for any violation of the Labor Code. The plaintiff can bring the claim on behalf of other “aggrieved employees.” In Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., the plaintiff brought a PAGA action seeking penalties not only for the Labor Code violation that affected him, but also for different violations that affected other employees.

The court concluded:

PAGA allows an “aggrieved employee” ––a person affected by at least one Labor Code violation committed by an employer––to pursue penalties for all the Labor Code violations committed by that employer.

Based on these two cases, an employee who never suffered an injury, can bring a claim against an employer who unknowingly made a mistake, and the employee can include claims for other employees even if the plaintiff never suffered the same harm the other employees suffered.

I used to think Labor Code Private Attorney General lawsuits were a “lighter” version of a class action. Now I think they are more like class actions without the protection of a class action lawsuit. In class actions the plaintiff has to at least suffer the same injury as the rest of the class.

These cases remind employers to review payroll practices to ensure they comply with the law.

If you have questions or concerns about your pay practices, contact the Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. today.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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