Current trends in litigation in California and methods for protecting oneself from them

In the latest episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Associate General Counsel Matthew Roberts and Senior Employment Law Counsel Erika Barbara discuss the current trends in litigation and provide tips for employers to avoid or defend against claims.

Litigation Trends

According to Barbara, there has been a steady increase in wage-and-hour, class action, and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) lawsuits in recent years. These cases are typically brought by a current or former employee who seeks to represent themselves and other employees who have worked for the same employer within a specific period. They often seek damages and penalties, such as waiting time penalties, wage statement penalties, and PAGA penalties.

Barbara explains that these types of cases have become a lucrative business for plaintiff-side law firms. Some firms file hundreds of class and PAGA actions each year, using cookie-cutter complaints that list the same claims in every case, with only the plaintiff’s name changed. In some cases, the plaintiff’s name is even forgotten.

In addition to these types of claims, wage-and-hour claims are also added to single plaintiff cases.

Understanding PAGA

The Private Attorneys General Act allows an individual, known as an “aggrieved employee,” to sue an employer on behalf of other aggrieved employees for various Labor Code violations. Any penalties recovered in a PAGA case are distributed with 75% going to the state and 25% going to the group of aggrieved employees.

Barbara explains that PAGA cases are attractive to plaintiff’s attorneys for several reasons. First, the law allows for the recovery of attorneys’ fees if the plaintiff prevails at trial or settles the case. This means that a significant portion of the settlement goes to the plaintiff’s attorney. Additionally, PAGA claims can result in significant penalties for multiple alleged violations, which can drive up the value of the case.

Conducting an Audit for Compliance

Barbara stresses the importance of compliance with wage-and-hour requirements, especially in light of the increase in litigation. One common claim in class and PAGA actions is the failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements. California has specific requirements for the information that must be included in a wage statement, and failure to comply can result in penalties.

To avoid these types of claims, Barbara recommends conducting an audit to ensure compliance with all wage-and-hour requirements. This includes reviewing wage statements, meal and rest break policies, and employee classifications. Employers should also ensure that their policies and practices are consistent with state and federal laws.

In conclusion, employers should be proactive in preventing potential litigation by staying up-to-date on wage-and-hour laws and conducting regular audits to ensure compliance. By taking these steps, employers can minimize their risk of facing costly lawsuits. 

Share This Article
Leave a comment