PAGA Like Bills are coming to Washington

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The State of State Laws to End Forced Arbitration.

— In Washington, Representative Drew Hansen has championed HB 1965, a proposal to allow whistleblowers to bring actions on behalf of the state. Building on the lessons learned from PAGA, the law is motivated by the reality that, while most employers pay their workers wages in a timely orderly fashion, some do not — or worse. Predatory employers often attempt to hide their wage theft behind misleading pay stubs, complex calculations, and informal verbal “arrangements”. Prosecuting these cases is a logistical burden upon the state and happens only in the most egregious and well-documented cases. These dynamics embolden bad actors to shave corners and keep workers from the fruits of their labor.

This proposed law increases access to the judiciary system by adding an option that’s more accessible than the upfront costs of hiring private attorneys and the overworked Department of Labor and Industries, state human rights commission and Department of Health. (The WA Human Rights Commission reported investigators looking into alleged discrimination “have caseloads of about 40 cases at any given time. There is currently a backlog of cases that are not currently assigned to an investigator due to staffing levels.”) Under the law, whistleblowers could bring suit for violations of fifteen existing laws on minimum wage, payment of wages, wage rebates, gender equal pay opportunities, and discrimination. 

Class action lawsuits allow individuals to band together and send a clear message that the penalties for injustice, harm, and exploitationscale with the number of people wronged. So too does this law, allowing for a potential suit to be brought for violations “affected all employees aggrieved by the same employer”.This gives more power to workers who have traditionally had fewer practical paths to justice than their employers. The bill has passed through labor and appropriations committees, with the hope of a floor vote as soon as possible.