Two more points for now on California’s Private Attorneys General Act.
First, in many cases, you don’t have to prove that your employer’s violation hurt you or cost you anything. You just need a violation. For example, the Labor Code requires pay stubs to accurately itemize certain basic information. If yours don’t, it’s a violation even if it doesn’t affect your pay and you never even look at your pay stubs.
Second, in many cases, you don’t have to prove the employer did anything knowingly or on purpose. Take the pay-stub example again. Or take other wage-and-hour violations. It doesn’t matter whether an employer meant to do it wrong or not. The point of PAGA is to supplement the state’s enforcement and increase compliance. So if the state wouldn’t have to prove it if it were citing the employer, you don’t either when you’re suing on its behalf.
In such cases, a court may reduce the penalties under PAGA if they would be unjust, arbitrary, or excessive, but it can’t deny them outright.
The California Court of Appeal restated these points three weeks ago. The case was brought by an employee who was terminated after sixteen years with her company. She sued for age discrimination, disability discrimination, and a failure to furnish accurate wage statements. She brought the last claim both for herself and, under PAGA, on behalf of all other affected employees. She settled the age claim and lost the disability claim before trial, leaving only the last set of claims to resolve.
Just before trial, the court had thrown out the PAGA claim because it found that there was no injury from the violation.
But that’s not the rule, so the appeals court reversed.