WLAD: Discrimination & Attorneys' Fees
Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), do courts allow prevailing plaintiffs attorneys' fees to be paid by the defendant-employer? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION
WLAD places a premium on encouraging private enforcement, and it entitles prevailing plaintiffs to "reasonable attorneys' fees." RCW 49.60.030(2). These fees are typically calculated using a lodestar formula.
THE LODESTAR FORMULA
To calculate a lodestar amount, a court multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate. Chuong Van Pham v. City of Seattle, Seattle City Light, 159 Wn.2d 527, 538, 151 P.3d 976 (2007) (citing Bowers v. Transamerica Title Ins. Co., 100 Wn.2d 581, 597, 675 P.2d 193 (1983)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The hours reasonably expended must be spent on claims having a "common core of facts and related legal theories." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The court should discount hours spent on unsuccessful claims, duplicated or wasted effort, or otherwise unproductive time. Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
In order to reverse an attorney fee award, an appellate court must find the trial court manifestly abused its discretion. Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). That is, the trial court must have exercised its discretion on untenable grounds or for untenable reasons. Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
THE CONTINGENCY ADJUSTMENT
After the lodestar amount is calculated, the court may consider adjusting the award to reflect additional factors; this is also know as a "contingency adjustment"; however, I will address this in a separate article.
If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.