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The Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA), Labor Code §§ 2699-2699.5, allows an aggrieved employee to bring suit against an employer for violations of most Labor Code provisions.  Suits brought under PAGA do not affect the employee’s right to recover other remedies under state or federal law. (Labor Code § 2699(g); Caliber Bodyworks, Inc. v. Superior Court (2005) 134 Cal. App. 4th 365, 375.) An employee who prevails in an action brought under PAGA is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs (Labor Code § 2699(g)).

Where the Labor Code provides for a civil penalty and public enforcement, an aggrieved employee may bring a suit and collect the penalties as an alternative to enforcement by the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and thus privately enforce the protections of the law (see Labor Code § 2699(a),(g)).

PAGA remedies are available for violations of most wage and hour protections (see Labor Code § 2699.5).

Under PAGA, an employee may recover an additional 25% penalty for certain Labor Law violations.  Some such examples are Labor Code sections 210 and 225.5, which provide that penalties are mandatory for failure to pay wages or for unlawfully withholding wages due. Amaral v. Cintas, 163 Cal. App. 4th 1157, 1209-14 (2008).

As an example, a willful violation of Labor Code section 221 (forced return of wages) is subject to a civil penalty of two hundred dollars ($200), plus 25% of the amount unlawfully withheld (see Labor Code § 225.5(b)).

PAGA allows private collection of penalties (typically fixed amounts plus 25% of the amount of the violation) that ultimately get divided between the worker and the Labor Commissioner.