Employer Asking For $1.6 Million In Fees For All Work Only Got $150,000 For Apportioned Time On One Labor Claim.
The fee order in Salhi v. PNY Technologies, Case No. CIV 514059 (San Mateo County Superior Court) is interesting and may well present some nice strategies call for employers who obtain a determination that selective labor claims are pursued in bad faith by plaintiff employees.
In this one, plaintiff—a Silicon Valley CEO fired after his company was acquired—lost labor code violations at trial, with one of the seven claims being determined to have been prosecuted in “bad faith” so as to give rise to fee exposure under California wage/hour statutes. (Plaintiff had sought $1.5 million under various theories, but got nothing.)
However, prevailing defendant PNY went for the whole tamale -- $1.6 million for the work of two large firms for the entire case. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Richard DuBois saw it much differently. Although employer could have been more conservative and apportioned the fee request for work on the one claim found to have been brought in bad faith, Judge DuBois believed that $150,000 was the proper fee recovery under the circumstances. “The court further considers that the ‘bad faith’ portion of the prosecution of the labor code cause of action did not begin until shortly before the trial began and little defense effort was required defending that cause of action from that time on,” Judge DuBois wrote in a recent order. “Based upon these considerations, the court finds that $150,000 was a reasonable amount of attorneys’ fees for defending against the labor code allegations.”
Some reported interviews with defense counsel were interesting to say the least. They admitted they could have gone for only apportioned time, but why not go for it all. Judge DuBois liked the more conservative approach, obviously.