Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Private Attorneys General Act

Civil Actions Under the Private Attorneys General Act

Under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), an aggrieved employee may bring a civil action personally and on behalf of other current or former employees and the State of California to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations. Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 380. Seventy-five percent of any PAGA penalties go to the Labor & Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”), leaving the remaining 25 percent for the employees. Id.; see also ZB, N.A. v. Superior Court (2019) 8 Cal.5th 175, 275. PAGA is intended to augment the limited enforcement capability of LWDA by empowering employees to enforce the Labor Code as representatives of the Agency. Id. at p. 383. A judgment in a PAGA action binds all those who would be bound by a judgment in an action brought by the government. Id. at 381.

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Awarding Attorneys Fees in PAGA Actions

Under PAGA, an aggrieved employee may bring a civil action personally and on behalf of other current or former employees and the state of California to recover civil penalties for Labor Code violations. Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC (2014) 59 Cal.4th 348, 380. Seventy-five percent of any PAGA penalties go to the LWDA, leaving the remaining 25 percent for the employees. Id. PAGA is intended to augment the limited enforcement capability of by empowering employees to enforce the Labor Code as representatives of the Agency. Id. at p. 383. A judgment in a PAGA action binds all those who would be bound by a judgment in an action brought by the government. Id. at 381.

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Certification and Penalties for a Wage & Hour Class Action in California

Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 in conjunction with Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Order No. 5 (California Code of Regulations, tit. 8, sec. 11050) require Defendants to authorize and permit meal and rest breaks to their employees.  California law prohibits employers from employing an employee for more than five hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes.  “[A]n employer’s obligation is to provide an off duty meal period: an uninterrupted 30–minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty.”  Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Super. Ct. (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1035.  In order for an employee to be relieved of all duty, the employee must be free to leave the workplace premises.  Id. at 1036.  An employer cannot “impede or discourage [employees] from [taking breaks].”  Id. at 1040.

Section 226.7 and IWC Wage Order No. 5 also require employers to authorize and permit employees to take 10-minute rest breaks for each four hours of work, or major fraction thereof, and to pay employees their full wages during their rest breaks.  A “major fraction of four hours” means greater than two hours.  Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at 1029.  Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during the 30-minute meal break and 10-minute rest break, the employee is considered “on duty” and the meal or rest break is counted as time worked under the applicable wage orders.

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Determining Employment Status in California

“The California Supreme Court has developed a multi-factor test for determining employment status.” Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp. (9th Cir. 2011) 667 F.3d 1318, 1324, quoting S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Indust. Rel. (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341 (“Borello”).  “[U]nder California law, once a plaintiff comes forward with evidence that he provided services for an employer, the employee has established a prima facie case that the relationship was one of employer/employee.” Narayan v. EGL, Inc. (9th Cir. 2010) 616 F.3d 895, 900, citing Robinson v. George, (1940) 16 Cal.2d 238, 243-244. “Once the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer, which may prove, if it can, that the presumed employee was an independent contractor.” Id. (citation omitted).
Under California law, primary test of an employment relationship is whether “the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired….” Borello, supra, at 350. While the right to control work details is the most important factor, there are also “’secondary’ indicia of the nature of a service arrangement.” Id. These secondary factors, principally derived from the Rest.2d Agency, include

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