California Voters to Determine the Fate of PAGA: A Game-Changing Labor Law

Sacramento, California – In a consequential battle over labor laws, California voters will have the power to determine the fate of the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), a unique state law that makes it easier for employees to sue their employers. The law, signed just days after the recall of former Governor Gray Davis in 2003, allows workers to file lawsuits on behalf of themselves and other employees. However, a business-backed ballot measure aimed at repealing PAGA will be on the November ballot, fueling a heated political and legal fight that has been ongoing for two decades.

The measure, sponsored by Californians for Fair Play and Accountability, argues that PAGA benefits lawyers who file class-action lawsuits at the expense of employees. On the other side, personal injury attorneys and labor unions advocate for PAGA, asserting that the state’s labor commissioner lacks the resources to adequately enforce workplace laws. This results in employers getting away with violating labor laws.

Over the years, PAGA has faced challenges in the legislature and the courts. Its reach has been expanded through the passage of new workplace laws, including the codification of a state Supreme Court decision in 2019 that significantly limited employers’ use of independent contractors. Other labor law expansions implemented by Governor Gavin Newsom include measures to protect employees who refuse to work in unsafe conditions and requirements for employers to disclose wage scales.

Proponents of the business-backed ballot measure argue that PAGA has been expanded beyond its original intent and that state enforcement of workplace rules should be strengthened instead. The campaign for the measure, dubbed the “Fair Play and Employer Accountability Act,” emphasizes its replacement provisions. However, opponents highlight the measure’s repeal of PAGA, which they claim eliminates employees’ ability to sue for monetary penalties in cases of state labor law violations.

The battle over the ballot measure is expected to revolve around competing perceptions. Defenders of PAGA argue that it is necessary to protect workers from abusive employers, while opponents claim that it is needed to safeguard both workers and employers from lawyer-driven lawsuits.

The fate of PAGA hangs in the balance as California voters prepare to cast their ballots in November. The outcome will determine the future of employee-employer relations in the state and could have broader implications for labor laws nationwide.