Labor Code Private Attorney General Act – L.C. §2698, et seq.
The Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) enables aggrieved employees to recover civil penalties for violations of the Labor Code on behalf of himself and other aggrieved employees. If the Labor Code allegedly violated does not set forth a specific civil penalty, the employee can recover a default penalty of up to $100.00 for each aggrieved employee per pay period.
Because a PAGA plaintiff is entitled to prosecute an action on behalf of himself/herself as well as any other aggrieved employee, and because the default penalties can be assessed “per employee” and “per pay period,” PAGA penalties in a modest case can easily exceed $250,000.00. Courts have discretion to lower the penalties if, based on the facts and circumstances of the particular case, to do otherwise would result in an award that is unjust, arbitrary and oppressive, or confiscatory. Although 75% of any PAGA penalties recovered must be paid to the Labor Workforce Development Agency, an employee prosecuting a PAGA claim is entitled to recover his/her attorneys’ fees and costs. Employers are never able to recover their attorneys’ fees defending a PAGA claim even if successful.
Before filing a PAGA lawsuit, the aggrieved employee must provide written notice by certified mail to the Labor Workforce Development Agency and the employer “of the specific provisions of the code alleged to have been violated, including the facts and theories to support the alleged violation.” Failure to adequately describe the facts and theories can result in dismissal of the claims. If the LWDA does not investigate the employee’s claim, the employee can file suit on the alleged violations. In some situations, an employer may be able to “cure” the alleged violations and avoid penalties.
Recent court decisions make it difficult for an employer to force PAGA plaintiffs into arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
Robert Nuddleman has represented aggrieved employees pursuing PAGA claims. He has also successfully defended employers against lawsuits seeking PAGA penalties. When the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act was first established, and when it was amended shortly thereafter, Robert Nuddleman was invited by the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California to educate other employment attorneys regarding PAGA and its impact on employee-employer litigation. Robert Nuddleman frequently trains other attorneys regarding pursuing and defending PAGA claims.
If your company has been accused of violating the Labor Code, or if you believe you may have a PAGA claim, contact the Nuddleman Law Firm to learn how to protect your interests.