WLAD: Discrimination & Attorneys' Fees

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).


WLAD places a premium on encouraging private enforcement, and it entitles prevailing plaintiffs to "reasonable attorneys' fees." See Chuong Van Pham v. City of Seattle, 151 P.3d 976, 981, 159 Wn.2d 527 (Wash. 2007) (citing RCW 49.60.030(2)). These fees are typically calculated using a lodestar formula.


"To calculate a lodestar amount, a court multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate." Chuong Van Pham, 151 P.3d at 981, 159 Wn.2d 527 (Wash. 2007) (citing Bowers v. Transamerica Title Ins. Co., 100 Wn.2d 581, 597, 675 P.2d 193 (1983))  

"The hours reasonably expended must be spent on claims having a common core of facts and related legal theories." Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). "The court should discount hours spent on unsuccessful claims, duplicated or wasted effort, or otherwise unproductive time." Id. (internal citation omitted).

"In order to reverse an attorney fee award, an appellate court must find the trial court manifestly abused its discretion." Id. (internal citation omitted). "That is, the trial court must have exercised its discretion on untenable grounds or for untenable reasons." Id. (internal citation omitted).


"After the lodestar amount is calculated, the court may consider adjusting the award to reflect additional factors." Chuong Van Pham, 151 P.3d at 982, 159 Wn.2d 527 (Wash. 2007) (internal citation omitted). This is also know as a "contingency adjustment"; however, I will address this in a separate article.

Learn More

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.


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