Employers May Only Have to Pay Proportional Fees If They Lose



In Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, the California Supreme Court held that a court has the discretion to award a plaintiff seeking attorneys’ fees for the underlying litigation only a fair portion of the amount sought.

In November 1989, Defendant City of Los Angeles (“City”) hired Plaintiff Robert Chavez as a police officer in the Los Angeles Police Department (“Department”). In 1996, he was accused of stealing payroll checks. The Department concluded that Chavez was not responsible for the stolen checks after investigating the issue. A few years later, in 1999, the Department began an investigation of Chavez’s conduct in an incident during which Chavez had responded to a silent alarm at a laundromat. Chavez left work on stress leave a little over a month later and was absent for almost a year before he returned to work. When he returned on March 10, 2000, he was served with a written notice that the Department intended to suspend him for five days for neglect of duty during the laundromat incident. A couple of weeks later, Chavez requested a transfer. One of his supervisors approved his request, but the approval was later rescinded. Nevertheless, in October 2000, Chavez was transferred from the Department’s 77th Street Division to its Southwest Division, where he resumed patrol duties.

In various litigation proceedings beginning in 1998, Chavez sued the City and others, asserting claims of employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”); violation of civil rights; nuisance; trespass; inverse condemnation; invasion of privacy; and loss of consortium (as to his wife).

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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.

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