California’s governor recently dropped a large portion of his plan aimed at curbing wage-and-hour lawsuits across the state. In January, Governor Brown had asked the legislature to amend the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) which allows employees to file a lawsuit for alleged California Labor Code violations if the state declines to act.
Under PAGA, workers can step into the shoes of the government to seek remedies that would normally only be available to the state. If the case is successful, the worker will split the penalties with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). The LWDA is the state agency authorized to assess and collect civil penalties for violation of the Labor Code. Since the LWDA is often overloaded and unable to address every workplace violation, PAGA allows an employee to bring a claim against an employer and make sure that his or her claim is addressed.
Many Californians, especially employers and their attorneys, believe that the PAGA statute created too much incentive for people to file frivolous lawsuits against their employers. To stop this supposed problem, the governor proposed several changes to the law. His proposal included extending the time the LWDA has to decide whether or not it will pursue the claims itself, giving the director of the Department of Industrial Relations the opportunity to object to a PAGA settlement before the court approves it, and a temporary “amnesty and safe harbor program” which would shield employers from penalties while working to comply with any new court decisions or laws.
Most of the provisions that Gov. Brown had envisioned will not come to pass after all. The governor recently signed a piece of compromise legislation which will only extend the time the LWDA has to pursue a claim. Previously, the LWDA had 120 days to make a decision; now, that time has been extended to 180 days. In addition, the legislation requires that copies of PAGA complaints and settlements be filed with the LWDA.
As part of the compromise, Gov. Brown also asked for and received $1.6 million to hire ten additional LWDA employees, as well as an additional $1.5 million to stabilize and improve the way that PAGA claims are handled. The compromise should allow the PAGA system to work more efficiently, helping employees get their claims processed faster.
If your employer is violating the laws regarding wages, hours, or worker safety, you too may be able to file a PAGA claim seeking compensation. To learn more about this process, contact Labor Law Office for an experienced employee rights lawyer in Sacramento today.
Sacramento, CA 95821