California Court of Appeals Orders Increase in Jury Verdict on Retaliation Claim

When California employment law claims proceed through trial and are put before a jury, the initial verdict amounts may be subject to modification by the judge based on legal requirements. Often, a jury will agree to award a plaintiff an amount that is prohibited by law. Trial courts have the discretion to reduce jury awards that are inconsistent with the law. The California Court of Appeals recently addressed a case where the trial court had reduced the jury’s award for attorney’s fees to a plaintiff by nearly $700,000, and the plaintiff appealed the reduction.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff in the recently decided case was a Black man over 50 who was employed by the defendant, an auto parts store. The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that he was a victim of workplace discrimination and harassment based on his race and age. The plaintiff also claimed that the defendant retaliated against him for making in-house complaints about how he was being treated.
The claims went to trial, after which a jury decided that the plaintiff made a valid claim for retaliation, although the other claims were not accepted by the jury. As part of the jury’s verdict, the plaintiff was awarded nearly $900,000 in attorney’s fees for pursuing the valid claim. After the verdict was awarded, the trial judge reduced the attorney fee award by about $700,000, ruling that only the portion of the fees attributable to the retaliation claim should be awarded to the plaintiff and not the fees incurred pursuing the two other claims.

The plaintiff appealed the verdict reduction to the state court of appeals. The plaintiff argued that the work spent on the other two unsuccessful claims was relevant and necessary to prove the retaliation claim and should be compensated as such. The appellate court agreed, finding that the plaintiff needed to show that he had a good faith belief that the discriminatory and harassing conduct he was enduring was illegal at the time he made the in-house reports. With the most recent appellate ruling, the case will return to the trial court for the damages to be increased.

Employment claims are complex and, often, high stakes. Thus, it is important for aggrieved workers to enlist the assistance of an experienced Southern California employee rights attorney.

Victims of Employment Discrimination and Workplace Harassment Can Fight Back

If you have been harassed or discriminated against at work because of your race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or another characteristic, you may be a victim of actionable employment harassment or discrimination. The qualified California employment law attorneys at the Nourmand Law Firm understand the legal protections in the U.S. and California that employees are entitled to. We can assist victims of workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, unpaid wages, physical injury, and other employment issues. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call 310-553-3600 today. You can also complete our online form to get started. The Nourmand Law Firm is dedicated to representing California, and only represents the interests of employees.

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