SAN JOSE – Last month, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Kuhnle approved a $12 million settlement against Safeway for failing to provide seats to more than 30,000 store cashiers.
The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) settlement is set to give the employees nearly $2 million for labor code violations, but attorneys will get $4.2 million and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency will receive $5.6 million. Plaintiff class members will receive a maximum of $66.66 each in the settlement.
“This PAGA case is just another example of plaintiffs’ lawyers taking advantage of a private right of action to capitalize on a lengthy court case and garner huge legal fees,” said Kyla Christoffersen Powell, president and CEO of Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC).
“In this case, lawyers stretched proceedings out for eight years and took home $4.2 million while each employee was only awarded a small fraction of that. The law was never intended to be a cash machine for plaintiffs’ lawyers. It’s time for California’s lawmakers to realize the unintended consequences private rights of action can have.”
But rather than realizing those “unintended consequences,” Gov. Gavin Newsom has widened the bill’s already broad scope by approving bills such as recently signed Senate Bill 142, which expands the rights of lactating mothers in the workplace. The bill requires employers to set aside a space for employees to express breast milk.
Signed in 2004 by then-Gov. Gray Davis, PAGA authorizes aggrieved employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other employees, and the state of California for Labor Code violations, but has since then grown into a litigious monster for the state.