Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. July 2015, Volume 29, No. 4

Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District: Employee’s Perspective

By Norm Pine and David M. deRubertis

Norman Pine, a Certified Appellate Law Specialist, especially focuses on employment law. Honors include: Best Lawyers in America (Appellate Law, 2012-2015); "Top 100" Super Lawyers (2009-2015); Daily Journal’s "Top Attorneys in Labor & Employment Law" (2009, 2011-2015); and CELA’s "Joe Posner award." David deRubertis is the principal of The deRubertis Law Firm, APC. In 2014, he was CAALA’s Trial Lawyer of the Year, a California Lawyer of the Year (Clay Award), and Best Lawyers’ Lawyer of the Year—Employment Law—Individuals (LA).

From time to time, an employment case with very special importance is decided by the California Supreme Court. Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District1—a case that had been followed with great anticipation (and nervousness) by both sides of employment law bar—is such a case.

In Williams, the California Supreme Court held that a prevailing California employee suing for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) should ordinarily receive his or her costs and attorneys’ fees "unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust."2 Of far greater significance, however, the court also held that a prevailing defendant-employer in a FEHA case should not be awarded its costs or fees unless the court finds the plaintiffbrought (or continued to litigate) an action "objectively without foundation."3

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