Thousands of PAGA notices are filed annually in California over labor code violations as minor as typos on a paystub. A new study from the former heads of Cal-OSHA and the state Department of Industrial Relations provides the most robust picture to date on employees’ outcomes under PAGA.

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The study findings are clear: Employees do worse by filing lawsuits than by having the Labor and Workforce Development Agency resolve their cases.

Many PAGA complaints are settled before they even make it to court, but the state still has records of 9,208 PAGA court cases. Because of a shortcoming in state law, detailed data is only available for a fraction of these cases. This data is visualized below.

Even in this small picture of total PAGA settlements, the unequal outcomes—where employees get less, employers pay more, and attorneys profit—show the need for immediate reform.

California State PAGA Case Details as of 2019

Lawsuits

9,208 court cases filed and resolved

707 average days per case

$732,635 average settlement

$405,724 average amount to attorneys

$12,828 average amount to plaintiff*

$2,078 average amount to employees*

LWDA-Resolved Cases

39 court cases filed and resolved

485 average days per case

$430,992 average settlement

N/A average amount to attorneys

N/A average amount to plaintiff*

$4,100 average amount to employees*

*Plaintiff refers to the original employee or employees who filed the PAGA complaint. The "average amount to employees" reflects the amount other employees received.

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Methodology:  This analysis is based on the response received via a Public Request Act (PRA) for all data on PAGA cases in possession of LWDA, the sole government source of PAGA data. Information on court case outcomes was not available for cases filed before 1 July 2016.  Information on post 1 July cases is available because of an amendment to PAGA signed into law the year before.  However, much of this information is incomplete despite the change in the law.  While the information we received indicates that 9,208 PAGA court cases were filed from FY 13/14 to FY 18/19, the number of those cases for which critical information is available is much smaller. For example, this map visualizes data from 1,148 cases where a county identifier and at least one of five key settlement metrics was available. For nearly all of these cases, the total settlement amount and the amount to attorneys was available; for the vast majority of cases, the average amount paid per original plaintiff was also available. These metrics are: Case resolution time, total settlement amount, amount to attorneys, average amount to original plaintiff(s), and average amount to all employees. The number of cases for which LWDA was able to document what individual employees actually received is 291.