In January, a new law, Senate Bill 646, will take effect that exempts California’s janitorial employees from the Private Attorneys General Act, commonly known as PAGA.

SB 646 was clearly a win for the janitorial industry, but it begs the question: Why did California lawmakers agree that PAGA was detrimental to unionized janitorial workers without admitting that it is just as damaging to workers of every industry?

If you are not familiar with PAGA, it is a law passed under Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 that allows employees to sue their employers for any labor law violation. It may have started as an effort to help workers, but quickly spiraled out of control to form an exploitative system in which both workers and employers are shortchanged by greedy trial lawyers.

California’s Labor Law Digest is over 1,100 pages long, so it is an impossible task to comply with all of these rules. Employers end up in class action lawsuits over things like late lunches — even if it is one minute past the fifth hour of work.

Small oversights like a paycheck stub with an incorrect employee ID number or a missing hyphen in the company’s name can result in multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Trial lawyers have turned PAGA into a billion-dollar industry.

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