PAGA Reform Likely to Bring Significant Changes to Future Litigation

In the face of a potential ballot measure threatening the elimination of Private Attorneys’ General Act (PAGA) actions, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2288 and Senate Bill 92 into law yesterday (July 1), both of which take effect immediately.

Under the amended laws, employers are expected to finally have some relief from the extreme financial burdens imposed by PAGA. While PAGA will continue to be an avenue for employees and former employees to bring representative actions, these actions and the related penalties will be far more limited. Some of the key changes built into the amended laws are summarized as follows:

1. Plaintiffs must experience a given violation themselves, within the applicable statute of limitations, to bring a PAGA claim. To date, Plaintiffs have been able to bring claims on behalf of others, even if they did not experience the violation personally.

2. Certain penalties will be capped where employers have taken all reasonable steps toward compliance. This incentivizes employers to cure and allows an opportunity to reduce penalties where policies and practice are no longer violative. For example, there will be a 15% cap on penalties for employers who took all reasonable steps toward compliance before receiving a PAGA notice and a 30% cap on penalties for employers who took all reasonable steps toward compliance within 60 days after receiving a PAGA notice. This will be particularly beneficial to help reduce serial litigation against the same employer. There will also be reduced penalties for wage statement violations and violations that only occurred within a limited time period.

3. In addition to civil penalties, Plaintiffs will now be able to seek injunctive relief under PAGA.

4. Courts will now be specifically empowered to rule on manageability concerns which includes limiting evidence at trial and limiting the scope of PAGA claims in a given case. This is particularly important given the dearth of procedural mechanisms to combat these cases.

The amended laws also provide clarification on when larger penalties are permissible and creates other limitations, including on derivative claims. All of these changes should be carefully reviewed, as they will certainly impact future litigation.

While the reform will only apply to civil actions filed after June 19, 2024, we expect that courts may find this action persuasive and consider this change when awarding PAGA penalties with respect to currently pending litigation. That being said, employers should leverage this legal update and the related legislative history to argue for reduced penalties, as possible.

This blog post is not offered, and should not be relied on, as legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.