Oftentimes, an individual employee's claim for wages owed by her employer is valid and entitles the employee to wages, penalties and attorney's fees and costs. However, individual wage claim may be too small to interest an attorney in filing a claim on behalf of the employer. However, if an employer as a matter of practice or policy has denied many or all of his employees of wages or labor law benefits that they are entitled to, then they may collectively sue their employer in a class action lawsuit or other representative action. A class action or a representative action is a procedural device used in litigation to determine the rights of and remedies, if any, for large numbers of people whose cases involve common questions of law and/or fact.
Under the 2004 Labor Code Private Attorney General Act, an employee may bring a representative lawsuit on behalf of herself and all other similarly situated workers who suffered the same violation of the California Labor Code. The worker can recover penalties and attorney's fees on behalf of the entire group though 75% of the penalties must be paid to the State.