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What is the California Private Attorneys General Act?

California has a number of different ways to deal with violations of its Labor Code. One of the most important mechanisms for employees to deal with these violations is the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). The PAGA is a state law that allows employees in California to bring lawsuits against their employers for violations of certain labor laws, enacted as a way to enforce labor laws that the state government did not have the resources to enforce on its own.

Under PAGA, employees can bring lawsuits on behalf of themselves and other employees who have been affected by the same labor law violations. If successful, the employee can recover a portion of the penalties that would normally be paid to the state for the violations, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Understanding this law, and how it applies to your situation, can be critical to your ability to hold your employer accountable.

California Employees Can Trust Maison Law

No employee in California deserves to have their workplace rights violated by their employer. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common occurrence.  Not only is it a violation of the law, but also of the trust that should exist between you and your employer. At Maison Law, you can put your trust in our team of experienced California employment lawyers. We will help you navigate the legal process of holding your employer accountable for their illegal actions. Don’t wait to get the help you need, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Common Violations of the California Labor Code

The California Labor Code is designed to deal with all different types of violations of workplace rights. This is somewhat challenging in California due to its diverse economy and multitude of different workplaces. At the same time, the Labor Code seeks to protect workers from their employers taking advantage of them or forcing them to work in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Still, employers frequently violate the rights of employees, usually in the following ways:

  • Failure to pay minimum wage – Under the California Labor Code, all employees are entitled to at least the minimum wage set by the state, which is currently $15.50 per hour. When an employer takes steps to underpay employees, it can result in a violation of the Labor Code.
  • Failure to pay overtime – Employers in California are required to pay their employees overtime at a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. When this doesn’t happen, it’s a violation of the Labor Code.
  • Misclassification of employees – Another common violation occurs when employers intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, and other benefits. This practice is illegal and can result in significant penalties.
  • Failure to provide meal and rest breaks – Employers are required to provide their employees with meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for every 5 hours worked and rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
  • Discrimination, harassment, or retaliation – Employers may not discriminate, harass, or retaliate against employees who have certain characteristics (race, age, national origin, disability) or exercise their rights under the California Labor Code, such as filing a complaint or reporting a violation.

These are just a few examples of the many violations that can occur under the California Labor Code. If you believe your employer has violated your rights under the law, you may want to consult with one of our employment lawyers to get a better idea of your rights and options or contact the California Labor Commissioner’s Office for more information.

An Overview of the California Private Attorneys General Act

The California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) is a law that allows employees in California to bring a lawsuit against their employer for violations of the California Labor Code on behalf of:

  • Themselves
  • Other employees
  • The State of California

PAGA was enacted in 2004 as a means to increase the enforcement efforts of the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, which has limited resources to investigate and prosecute all the violations of the Labor Code in California workplaces.

Under PAGA, employees who have had their Labor Code rights violated can sue their employer and seek penalties for the violations. These penalties are split between:

  • The employees who brought the lawsuit
  • The State of California

Procedurally, filing a PAGA claim involves the following steps:

  • Written notice – To file a PAGA claim, an employee must first provide written notice to their employer of the alleged Labor Code violations at least 65 days before filing a lawsuit. The notice must include specific information about the alleged violations, such as the Labor Code sections that were violated and the facts and theories to support the claim.
  • Employer response – After receiving the notice, the employer has the opportunity to take action to fix the alleged violations within the 65-day period. If the employer chooses to fix the violations, the employee may not pursue a PAGA claim for those specific violations. However, if the employer chooses not to fix the issues and violations, or fails to respond to the notice, the employee can file a lawsuit under PAGA.

One of the benefits of PAGA is that it allows employees to recover penalties for Labor Code violations even if they have signed an arbitration agreement or a class action waiver. However, like any other lawsuit, PAGA claims can be complex and time-consuming. Thus, it’s important to talk with our team of experienced California employment lawyers to fully understand the process.

What Damages Are Available in a California PAGA Claim?

Obviously, a PAGA claim is a bit different from a more traditional lawsuit. At the same time, there are still available benefits if you want to file a PAGA claim. These are typically in line with damages you would receive in lawsuit claims involving violations of the Labor Code.  However, there are some key differences:

  • Penalties can range from $100 to $200 per pay period for initial violations
  • Range from $200 to $1,000 per pay period for subsequent or intentional violations of the specific Labor Code laws by your employer

Further, the amount of penalties awarded in a PAGA claim depends on:

  • The number of employees affected by the violations
  • The severity and frequency of the violations
  • Other mitigating factors, such as the employer’s financial condition

Any penalties that are recovered in a PAGA claim are then split between the employees who brought the lawsuit and the state itself. The employee’s share of the penalties is typically 25% to 75% of the total amount, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In addition to civil penalties, a successful PAGA claim may also result in court orders that require the employer to take corrective action to remedy the violations and prevent future violations.

The easiest way to think about PAGA claims is that they aren’t about recovering damages for individual employees, such as back pay or other types of compensation. Rather, they are designed to enforce the Labor Code and penalize employers who violate it. Thus, the purpose of PAGA is to incentivize employers to comply with the law and provide a means for employees to hold them accountable when they don’t.

Let Maison Law Stand Up For Your Rights

There is no excuse for your employer to violate your rights in the workplace. Sometimes, though, the only way to hold your employer accountable is to take legal action against them. If you find yourself in this situation, let Maison Law stand up for your legal rights. Our team of experienced California employment lawyers can explain your legal options under PAGA, and what you need to do to get the result and treatment you deserve under the law.

Don’t wait to take action, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can help you.

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