Defeating PAGA Claims in Wage-Hour Litigation

April 24, 2018

California law provides for a unique mechanism by which employees can file suit on behalf of other employees without bringing claims as class actions—the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”). PAGA generally allows an employee to sue an employer on behalf of all “aggrieved employees” for alleged violations of the California Labor Code.

The potential recovery in a PAGA claim can be staggering. Each “aggrieved employee” can recover up to $100 for the first pay period in which a violation occurs, and up to $200 for each subsequent pay period in which a violation occurs. Moreover, PAGA provides for the recovery of costs and attorney’s fees. While the limitations period is only one year, it continues throughout the course of the litigation.

Epstein Becker Green has experience aggressively and successfully defending employers facing PAGA claims. For example, our California attorneys recently achieved a significant victory for a medical transportation client that was scheduled to commence a lengthy trial in a 6,000+ person wage-hour action under PAGA with substantial potential exposure. In this PAGA case, the plaintiff contends that our client does not provide emergency medical technicians and paramedics with compliant meal and rest periods.

The defense of this case was complicated by a recent California Supreme Court decision holding that it is unlawful for an employer to require employees to remain on-call and to carry communications devices with them when they are on breaks. Nevertheless, Epstein Becker Green convinced the trial court to grant our client’s motion to strike the PAGA claims on the grounds that the trial would be unmanageable because of the need to address individualized issues. Accordingly, unless the plaintiff appeals, rather than a lengthy trial involving thousands of employees and substantial potential exposure, our client will be trying a single-plaintiff case with limited exposure.