With state watchdogs spread thin, the Private Attorney General Act was created to fill a gap in labor code enforcement. It’s now under attack by corporations. CAOC is defending this important employee protection.

Enacted in 2004, the purpose of the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) was to increase enforcement of the Labor Code by “deputizing” citizens to act as private attorneys general and allowing them to pursue civil penalties on behalf of the state for Labor Code violations. This private enforcement mechanism was meant to help address the reality that labor enforcement agencies could not keep up with the growth of the labor market and the number of Labor Code violations occurring in workplaces.

PAGA fights wage theft when the state is unable or unwilling to step in
PAGA has been a useful tool for low wage workers to enforce their labor rights by filing lawsuits on behalf of a group or “class” of employees who have suffered Labor Code violations, such as unpaid wages, missed meal and rest breaks, non-compliant wage statements, and overtime violations.

PAGA preserves employees’ rights in the wake of forced arbitration
Since its enactment, PAGA has been under constant attack by corporate interests. PAGA actions are unique because they are protected from forced arbitration, a fact that has made PAGA more vulnerable to attack by corporate interests. Consumer attorneys, labor unions and low-income worker groups have worked to defend PAGA and the important protections it provides for low-wage workers in our state.

PAGA has very strict requirements in place to avoid abuse
In order to bring a valid PAGA claim, the employee must meet the formal notice and waiting requirements specified under Labor Code section 2698, et seq. The employee must submit a PAGA claim notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and give the agency time to review the notice and decide whether it wishes to investigate the claim. If, and only if, the LWDA chooses not to investigate, or does not otherwise respond to the claim notice within a specified period of time, the employee is then entitled to bring a PAGA lawsuit in court.

Once the case proceeds to court (again because the LWDA is unable or unwilling to take the case), any civil penalties recovered from an employer in a PAGA action are divided with the LWDA, with the state receiving 75 percent and the aggrieved employees receiving 25 percent. Attorney fees can also be recovered for successful PAGA claims.

For more information on PAGA, please see the UCLA Labor Center report “California’s Hero Labor Law” at