FEHA Plaintiff Must Prevail for Attorney’s Fee Award

Here’s a FEHA disability discrimination case that went to trial and resulted in a defense verdict.  Plaintiff’s attorney then sought attorney’s fees because even though the jury awarded plaintiff no relief, the jury did say that plaintiff’s physical disability was a substantial motivating reason for the employer’s decision to fire plaintiff. But the jury also concluded that the employer’s conduct was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiff harm. The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees under FEHA.

Plaintiff relied on Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal. 4th 203 (2013) which held that “a plaintiff subject to an adverse employment decision in which discrimination was a substantial motivating factor may be eligible for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs expended for the purpose of redressing, preventing, or deterring that discrimination, ” even if the discrimination did not “result in compensable injury” for the plaintiff. Id. at 235.

Not surprisingly, the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s denial noting that plaintiff was not a “prevailing party” under FEHA.

The bottom line for plaintiff’s attorneys is that you must obtain some relief from the trial in order to be eligible for attorney’s fees.

Bustos v. Global P.E.T., Inc., et. al.
Fourth Appellate Court of Appeal, #E065869
December 22, 2017

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