Tuesday, September 20, 2016

34th Assembly candidate Vince Fong weighs in on the Kern County economy

Bakersfield Observed is proud to provide a forum to local candidates to express their views. Today we hear from Vince Fong, a Republican running to succeed Rep. Shannon Grove in the State Assembly District 34

PAGA Reform is Needed to Protect Kern County’s Economy
By Vince Fong

Supplying nearly half of California’s private workforce, small businesses are the lifeblood of our community and the backbone of our economy. We depend on their success and prosperity to employ our neighbors and friends and to support our local economy.

Unfortunately, hundreds of small businesses in Kern County are being forced to turn off their lights and shut their doors in the latest scheme by opportunistic trial lawyers.

Thanks to a state law signed in 2003 by then-Governor Gray Davis , trial lawyers are exploiting employees to sue their employer for any violation of the California Labor Code. The Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) was originally designed to prevent employers from abusing their employees but has transformed into a hammer that is bludgeoning businesses into bankruptcy and putting people out of work.

Even the most minor violations of the California Labor Code, like pay stubs that lack the start or end date of a pay period or paychecks that by misplacing a period or comma in a company name, can result in millions of dollars in PAGA penalties. And, when businesses suffer as resources go toward litigation instead of investing in their workers, they are forced to make hard decisions – like laying off employees, reducing benefits or moving out of state.

Previously, the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) handled these cases, but due to a lack of resources, they were not able to process every case. This act attempted to be the solution, but trial lawyers discovered how to walk away with the biggest chunk of change at the expense of vulnerable employees and businesses.

Here in Kern County, PAGA is a four letter word that many business owners would like to avoid and is harming our business climate. After facing millions in penalties and legal fees, many local businesses are contemplating closing their doors. It has gotten so bad in Kern County that California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse recently hosted a small business summit to inform business owners about the trial lawyers’ latest ploy. And PAGA abuse continues to grow across California.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove has been a champion for Kern County business owners who are facing PAGA lawsuits from unscrupulous trial lawyers. She has led the reform effort in Sacramento, carrying legislation that fights to protect both employees and businesses. But much work still remains.

If elected to the California Assembly, I will continue the charge against these frivolous actions, making PAGA reform one of my top priorities. If your business has been affected, please share your story with me as we work together to find a solution.

Our local small businesses are simply trying to survive, dealing with over-regulation, over-taxation, and over-litigation in a state that ranks last in business climate. This is one burden we should remove. It is time we protect Kern County workers and stop shakedown lawsuits targeting our local small businesses.

Vince Fong is a candidate for the 34th Assembly District.

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