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Business Owners Join Together Against PAGA, an Act with Detrimental Consequences for Employers and Employees Alike

Tim Brickley, Blaine Eastcott, Bob “BJ” McCoy, Bruce Wick, Gwen Gordon, Maria Schaeffer–a small group of business owners who left their companies to come to Washington, D.C. in order to explain why the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) must be changed.

The business owners participated in the March 30th California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA) Rally on the Supreme Court steps. Blaine Eastcott, owner of Rockreation Climbing Gyms, and Maria Schaeffer, director of administration at Brickley Environmental, have been involved in looming PAGA lawsuits against their respective companies and spoke directly from the points of view of both employees and employers.

Although a PAGA lawsuit appears as if it doesn't impact employees, it can. “Well it's the boss's responsibility; however, it is a deprivation [of] the employees from them, and there's no more room,” Schaeffer said. “They have no flexibility now. You can't just give someone time off. You can't just say, come in when you can, or when you need to leave, don't worry about it, make up your time.”

Eastcott, who operates two offices, claimed this is the reason why employees and customers will ultimately be disadvantaged. “I must borrow money to pay [the PAGA suit] off,” Eastcott explained. “Which means if I am paying a pocket lawsuit, I'm not paying my employees a better wage. I'm not paying the bonuses when, you know, Christmas rolls around, or when the company does better. [I cannot do this] because I'm burdened by these loans. I'm not buying amenities or pouring back into the community of people that use the facilities. Lastly, I'm not reaping the benefits as an owner and putting money away for my kid's college and things like that.”

Schaeffer also emphasized the financial and administrative restrictions that affect employees when the PAGA suit is brought. “You can't just hand them a bonus 'cause they've done a great job. There's no rewards. If you recognize one, you have to recognize all. So, it was very burdensome.”

Along with CABIA, other organizations such as the Western Growers Association, which represents the agricultural interests of western states, as well as the California Chamber of Commerce are advocating to push for PAGA changes. Both Schaeffer and Eastcott are hoping they will receive a favorable Supreme Court decision in Viking River Cruises Inc. V. Moriana as well as for the success of an initiative to amend the California Fair Pay and Employer Accountability Act (CFPEAA) via the November ballot; they hope these initiatives will bring about the reform or even removal of PAGA.

“Hopefully there will be some reforms,” Schaeffer added. “It needs to be. It's going to push companies out of California for sure.”

Eastcott confirmed this. In the case of his business, he already has a presence there, but if he decides to expand his company beyond its two current locations, the third location will likely be in an area that is more conducive to business, such as Arizona or Nevada.

“I'm hopeful that the Supreme Court recognizes that this law has been misinterpreted and will be able to start conversations that will educate the public,” he stated. “I'm hoping in June, it gets overturned, so that [the law] actually gets reformed where it protects employees, isn't so costly to businesses and doesn't enrich trial attorneys.”

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