The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) allows workers to enforce labor laws on behalf of the state. Critics of this law are looking to repeal it but have halted their plans for a ballot initiative in 2022, instead saying they will leave the repeal up to voters in 2024.

Since being passed in 2004, PAGA has faced criticism from employers and corporate lobbying groups. As an employee in San Diego, California, however, PAGA provides you with extra protection. This blog post will provide you with an overview of PAGA, the types of entities that are against it, a description of a recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision that impacts the law, and more.

A Brief Overview of PAGA

PAGA allows employees to file lawsuits against employers. Workers may be able to recover civil penalties on their behalf, on behalf of other employees, or on behalf of California. Employees need to show a labor code violation. Most often, this involves underpayment, improper overtime pay, or other labor-related issues.

Under PAGA, employees have just one year to file a claim. These lawsuits can be brought even if an employee signed an arbitration agreement with their employer. That’s one of the biggest problems companies in San Diego have with this law. Arbitration often avoids public sharing of information and can keep fines and penalties down.

PAGA provides for direct payment of fines and penalties to employees if they win their case. The law authorizes penalties of $100 to $200 per employee per pay period violation, putting employees on more equal footing with employers when making a challenge for a workplace violation.

Who’s Against PAGA

There are industry groups representing farmers, car dealers, trucking companies, and others who are opposed to PAGA and aim to have it repealed. In the alternative, these industry groups are pushing for new laws that would make PAGA irrelevant.

For example, these groups are pushing the Fair Pay and Employer Accountability Act. This law, if enacted, would eliminate PAGA as it stands and put the authority of complaints for workplace violations in the hands of the state labor commissioner. Instead of allowing workers to assert their rights in court, the proposed law would require the state to be involved, possibly slowing down or even tieing up the process.

The Supreme Court Weighed in

In June 2022, the US Supreme Court rendered an opinion in Viking River Cruises, Inc., v. Moriana. In this case, a California court held that PAGA did not violate federal law, specifically, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The Supreme Court disagreed.

In an 8-1 ruling, the Court held that the FAA allows employers to enforce arbitration agreements when an employee files a PAGA claim with the state. In essence, this decision renders PAGA limited as it forces employees to turn to arbitration instead of filing a claim with the state.

What this means for employees is that you must carefully review your employment agreements. If you sign an arbitration agreement and you at some point file a PAGA claim against your employer, you will be forced into arbitration and not allowed to pursue a legal claim against your employer. Given that California puts worker’s rights high on its priority list, it’s likely that the legislature will take action on this matter.

Speak With an Employment Lawyer To Protect Your Rights

You have many rights as an employee in San Diego, California. If your employer has violated your rights, you have legal options, even while the Supreme Court has presently slowed some of those rights. 

While PAGA is still on the books as of July 2022, the recent SCOTUS decision does complicate matters; it’s important that your interests are represented and that you aren’t taken advantage of. Speak with an experienced employment lawyer today if you need assistance.

To learn more, call our San Diego law firm at (619) 693-7727 or contact us online.

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About The Author

Nicholas J. Ferraro

Nicholas J. Ferraro is a skilled labor and employment lawyer and the founder of Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc. Based in San Diego, he focuses on representing employees in class action and collective litigation cases. Education: Mr. Ferraro attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the San Diego Law Review. Experience: Over a decade of legal practice, representing more than 100,000 employees. Court Admissions: Mr. Ferraro represents his clients throughout the State of California and the State of Washington. He is a member of the State Bar of California. Community Involvement: Active member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the San Diego County Bar Association.