If an employee signs an agreement waiving the right to file suit against an employer, the employee may think he or she is barred from filing a PAGA lawsuit. However, that’s not the case.
Public policy makes agreements not to sue unenforceable when it comes to suits under California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). This is a powerful tool through which an employee who has been wronged may file suit to get justice.
The Process for Filing a PAGA Lawsuit
There are several steps to start a PAGA lawsuit:
- The employee’s claim(s) must include all facts supporting the employer’s alleged labor code or wage order violations.
- The employee must give written notice of the claim(s) to the employer via certified mail and to California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) by filing online.
- The LWDA then has 65 days from the postmark date of the notice to provide the employee with notice of its intent to investigate.
- If the LWDA does not provide that notice within the required time, the employee can file the PAGA lawsuit, which may seek remedies for themselves and/or their coworkers.
Failing to fulfill the procedural requirements could delay an employee’s ability to file a PAGA lawsuit.
The Benefits of a PAGA Lawsuit
One of the main benefits of filing a PAGA lawsuit is that it doesn’t come with the same strict requirements as a class action lawsuit. Also, employers found liable for violations must pay $100 for each employee per pay period per initial violation and $200 for each employee per pay period for each subsequent violation. Therefore, PAGA lawsuits have the potential of resulting in large payouts to help employees get the remedy they deserve.
For example, a federal judge in California ordered Wal-Mart to pay $102 million for California wage-statement violations. And in 2019, a superior court judge in San Diego found Alaska Airlines liable for $25 million for wage-payment calculation errors.
Pay Attention to Deadlines and What’s Happening in the News
The statute of limitations to bring a PAGA claim is one year from when violations occur, so time is of the essence. Also, if an employee is fired or demoted because they filed a PAGA lawsuit, they should contact an attorney immediately. Retaliation is illegal under state law.
There has been a dispute over whether an employee who has settled individual employment claims has the legal right to be part of a PAGA lawsuit. In March 2020, the California Supreme Court decided this issue in Kim v. Reins International California, Inc. The court found that an employee may file a PAGA lawsuit after settling individual claims.
This is an important development underscoring why employees should know their rights under PAGA. At the Workplace Rights Law Group our team of employment attorneys are paying close attention to this and other issues that may impact an employee’s rights concerning PAGA lawsuit filings. If you have specific questions about PAGA lawsuits, reach out to us today.