California’s Private Attorney General Act, first adopted in 2004, is a uniquely empowering law for employees, as it allows them to directly defend their rights in the workplace. The law effectively deputizes private citizens; allowing them to act on behalf of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) in filing civil lawsuits for Labor Code Violations. The largest shortcoming of this law is the fact that many employees are simply unaware of the rights that PAGA grants them. Furthermore, some argue the fact that the LWDA is entitled to 75 percent of penalties lessens any incentive on the part of the employee to pursue a PAGA claim.
The balance of this article will provide essential information on what can be reported through PAGA, the legal incentives for employees to report violations, and the procedure employees must follow in order to file a PAGA claim.
What Constitutes a Valid PAGA Claim?
PAGA claims can be filed on your own behalf or on behalf of your colleagues. (California Labor Code § 2699a). Filing a PAGA claim does not require you to assert that you or your peers suffered injury due to a violation, and it does not require you to assert that the violation was knowing and intentional (Lopez v. Friant & Associates 15 Cal. App. 5th 773). The mere fact that a violation occurred is sufficient. PAGA classifies violations into three distinct categories: serious labor code violations, health and safety violations, and other labor code violations.
What Do Employees Gain by Filing a PAGA Claim?
Because employees who file PAGA claims are technically acting on behalf of the LWDA, money won from a PAGA claim is split between the employee and the LWDA. The standard award in a PAGA claim is $100 for the first pay period in which a violation occurred, and an additional $200 for each subsequent pay period in which the violation continued. Attorney fees are also recoverable by any employee who wins a PAGA suit alleging the wage and hour violations that are encompassed within such a claim. (California Labor Code § 2699g).
How Can I File a PAGA Claim?
PAGA claims must be filed online, with a copy of the claim sent via certified mail to the employer. As to certain violations, you must first serve a cure notice on both your employer and the LWDA. Your employer has 33 days from the date of the cure notice and must provide written notice that the violation has been properly remedied. Assuming the 33 day cure period has expired and LWDA has not advised the claimant that it intends to pursue the violation, you may proceed to pursue a PAGA claim.
Get Help Today
PAGA claims can be both technical and very confusing to employees. It is therefore highly recommended that employees seek the advice and guidance of an experienced employment law attorney. Feel free to contact the Perrin Law Group today for your free legal consultation if you have any further questions about PAGA claims and/or any other violations of employee rights such as discrimination, harassment or retaliation.