Southern California Record

Monday, December 9, 2019

Former state legislator says more awareness of PAGA law necessary for reform

Reform

By Sarah Downey | Oct 28, 2019

Legislativesession 1280

SACRAMENTO – A former state senator believes greater awareness about the drawbacks of the Private Attorneys General Act is needed to bring about reform to the law.

Since 2004, the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) has allowed trial lawyers to sue employers on behalf of workers over alleged infractions of California labor laws. PAGA opponents believe the law has led to many frivolous claims and could produce even more due to Senate Bill 142, legislation just signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that requires added workplace lactation accommodations for employees.

“Unfortunately, yes, I believe SB 142 is a good example of legislation passed and signed with good intentions that is ripe for exploitation by PAGA lawsuits,” former state Sen. Bob Huff said. “The legislation applies to every employer in the state, with few caveats. It is a law with many moving parts. The law carries a $100 fine per violation. Perfect recipe for PAGA lawsuits.”

Huff has found only limited awareness of PAGA and the damage it can bring.

“While there is more awareness about abuses related to PAGA, I don’t believe that if you queried a sampling of local elected officials that you would yet discover a very high level of awareness. There is definitely sympathy when one relates real-world examples,” Huff said.

“Any successful effort to reform the state’s Private Attorneys General Act, which is needed, will take significant and continued educational outreach to leaders and decision makers,” he added.

A recent opinion piece in the Modesto Bee by Stanislaus County Supervisor Kristin Olsen discusses some of the devastation brought on by PAGA suits.

“Unable to afford a lengthy legal battle and even less equipped to deal with the financial devastation of losing a fight against a PAGA claim, owners of small businesses are usually forced into expensive settlement agreements that represent a significant cost to employers and hinder their ability to hire more employees or even to continue doing business,” Olsen said.

“PAGA lawsuits represent an existential problem for businesses across the county and may very well be the biggest litigation threat they face today,” Olsen wrote. “However, if we do work to fix it, California can continue to be a landing destination for entrepreneurs, and Stanislaus County can become home to new business ventures.”

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