California Courts of Appeal Pave the Way for More PAGA Claims

By Brett Thomas

The California Court of Appeal recently issued two employee-friendly rulings regarding the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), which further expand PAGA’s reach.  PAGA is part of the California Labor Code and authorizes individuals to bring representative actions against employers to recover civil penalties for violations of the California Labor Code.

In the first, Huff v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., a California Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether a plaintiff who brings a PAGA representative action may seek penalties not only for the Labor Code violation that affected him or her, but also for different Labor Code violations that affected other employees.  The Court held that PAGA allows a plaintiff to pursue penalties for all the Labor Code violations committed by that employer that affected any employee, provided that the plaintiff must have been affected by at least one Labor Code violation.  In other words, a plaintiff who brings a representative action under PAGA may seek penalties for violations that he or she did not even suffer. 

In the second case, Raines v. Coastal Pacific Food Distributors, Inc., a California Court of Appeal ruled that a PAGA representative claim for a violation of Labor Code Section 226(a), which obligates employers to provide accurate wage statements to employees, does not require (1) proof of injury, or (2) a knowing and intentional violation.  The Court held that this is true even though these two elements are required to be proven when an employee brings an individual, non-PAGA claim for damages or penalties under Section 226(a).

These rulings may lead to an uptick in the number of PAGA claims filed, as well as an expansion of the scope of the PAGA claims to include more alleged Labor Code violations.

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