Man bites dog: recovering attorney’s fees from vexatious employees

more+
less-

California has a reputation for employment litigation: it is the state where everyone seems to feel obliged to sue their boss for something. 

 

While some suits have merit and others are understandable, there are suits by current or former employees that have no substance; suits that seem to be designed to do nothing more than cause pain for the employer and gain a nuisance value settlement.

 

What is truly news is when the conventions get turned upside down.

 

In Robert v. Stanford University, California Court of Appeal Case No. H037514 (February 25, 2014), plaintiff Francis Robert was terminated by Stanford University due to his harassment of a fellow employee; his termination followed repeated warnings and the entry of a restraining order to protect that fellow employee.  Robert nonetheless brought a claim that this was a pretext for race discrimination.  In discovery, Robert admittedly could not identify any evidence of race discrimination other than his own opinion. After the close of evidence at trial, Stanford successfully moved for nonsuit in its favor with respect to the discrimination claims.

 

Stanford, however, had incurred over $235,000 in fees defending the case.  Thus, it filed a motion to recover its fees.  The trial judge granted Stanford’s motion and awarded it $100,000: “I am finding that the FEHA claim was without merit and was frivolous and vexatious.  It was a legal theory in search of facts.  There were none that were presented.” 

 

The Appellate Court upheld this award of fees to the defendant employer.  It noted that the“complete absence of evidence to support [Robert’s] FEHA claim reflected its meritless nature, and the timing of his initiation of this lawsuit after the restraining order was also upheld by the appellate court] indicated that his action was intended to harass Stanford.”

 

While it remains difficult to recover attorneys’ fees from a vexatious former employee, this case reminds employers that such recovery is possible when a case is brought in bad faith. 

Written by:

Published In:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© DLA Piper | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »

All the intelligence you need, in one easy email:

Great! Your first step to building an email digest of JD Supra authors and topics. Log in with LinkedIn so we can start sending your digest...

Sign up for your custom alerts now, using LinkedIn ›

* With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name.
×
Loading...
×
×