California’s Private Attorney General Act for the Uninitiated

California’s Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) for the Uninitiated

By Dan Gildor

May 1, 2023

As attorneys who represent employees in California, we often encounter clients who are not aware of their rights as employees.  But while knowing one’s rights are important, so is knowing how the rights are enforced. One enforcement mechanism that is important for all employees to know about is the California Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).

Understanding PAGA Claims

This Act allows ordinary individuals to sue on behalf of the state of California for Labor Code violations committed by their employer. This means that if an employer violates a labor law, an employee can bring a lawsuit against the employer on behalf of the state and all the other so-called “aggrieved” employees to seek civil penalties for the violations. These penalties are then distributed between the state and the employees affected by the violations.

PAGA claims cover a wide range of employment law violations, including failing to provide meal and rest breaks, unpaid overtime, misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and failing to reimburse employees for necessary expenses. PAGA claims also cover other Labor Code violations including failing to provide copies of signed commissions agreements and prohibiting employees from disclosing how much they make or their working conditions.

Procedural Requirements and Deadlines for PAGA Claims

Prior to PAGA, many labor laws were not enforced because government agencies lacked the resources to investigate and prosecute every violation. PAGA fills this gap by allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits and hold employers accountable for their violations.

It’s important to note that PAGA claims are subject to several procedural requirements and deadlines. For example, before an employee can bring a PAGA claim, they must first provide written notice to the employer and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) setting forth the facts and theories underlying the alleged Labor Code violations. Depending on the type of claim, the employer may be able to cure the violations. The LWDA may also decide to investigate or file a lawsuit. PAGA claims can only proceed if the LWDA does not act, in general, within 65 days of the written notice. Additionally, PAGA claims must be filed within one year of the date of the first violation.

Speak With an Experienced Employment Attorney

If you believe that your employer has violated a labor or employment law, it’s important to speak with an experienced employment attorney who can help you understand your rights and options. At Valerian Law, we have helped many employees file successful PAGA claims and recover the compensation they deserve.