United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES [Doc.
Cathy Ann Bencivengo United States District Judge.
16, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for attorneys' fees
in the amount of $926, 597.75 on the basis that
Plaintiff's claims under the Fair Employment and Housing
Act (“FEHA”) were frivolous, unreasonable, and
without foundation. [Doc. No. 111.]For the reasons set forth
below, the motion is DENIED.
30, 2017, this Court adopted the Report and Recommendation of
Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major and granted the
Defendants' motion for terminating sanctions against
Plaintiff. [Doc. No. 103.] Judgment was entered accordingly.
[Doc. No. 106.]
16, 2017, Defendants' filed this motion for
attorneys' fees in the amount of $926, 597.75. [Doc. No.
27, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal with the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeal, as well as a motion for permission
to appeal in forma pauperis. [Doc. Nos. 112, 113.]
On August 10, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal granted
Plaintiff's motion for permission to appeal in forma
pauperis. [Doc. No. 119.]
Government Code section 12965 provides that, “[i]n
civil actions brought under this section, the court, in its
discretion, may award to the prevailing party ... reasonable
attorney's fees and costs, including expert witness
fees.” Cal. Gov't Code § 12965(b); Harris
v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal.4th 203, 213 (Cal.
2013). Where, as here, the defendant is the prevailing party,
the defendant must satisfy the standard set forth by the
Supreme Court in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, 434 U.S. 412, 421
(1978), in order to obtain an award of fees pursuant to
section 12965. See Villasenor v. Sears, Roebuck &
Co., CV 09-9147 PSG FMOX, 2011 WL 939033, at *1 (C.D.
Cal. Mar. 15, 2011). In Christiansburg, the Court
stated that “a district court may in its discretion
award attorney's fees to a prevailing defendant in a
Title VII case upon a finding that the plaintiff's action
was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, even
though not brought in subjective bad faith.” 434 U.S.
awarded attorneys' fees, Defendants must demonstrate that
Plaintiff's claim was “frivolous, unreasonable, or
without foundation.” Christiansburg, 434 U.S.
at 421. For the following reasons, the Court finds that
Defendants have failed to do so.
Frivolous, Unreasonable or Unfounded.
argue that in October 2016, Plaintiff produced
“thousands of damning emails . . . that eviscerated her
claims against Defendants.” [Doc. No. 111 at 3.]
According to Defendants, these emails conclusively prove that
Plaintiff “did not suffer any violent, unwelcome, or
nonconsensual contact by Rogers.” [Doc. No. 111 at 7.]
what is absent from Defendants' presentation is any
evidence to show there was no sexual relationship
between Plaintiff and her alleged employer, Mr. Rogers. While
perhaps not couched in these terms, the gravamen of the
complaint is one for quid pro quo harassment, which
occurs when an economic or job benefit is conditioned on the
employee's submission to sexual advances or when the
employee suffers a job detriment for refusing to comply.
Fisher v. San Pedro Peninsula Hospital, 214
Cal.App.3d 590 (1989); Nichols v. Frank, 42 F.3d 503
(9th Cir. 1994). See also Father Belle Cmty. Ctr. V. New
York State Div. of Human Rights on Complaint of King,
221 A.D.2d 44, 50(1996)(“The issue in a quid pro
quo case is whether the supervisor has expressly or
tacitly linked tangible job benefits to the acceptance or
rejection of sexual advances; a quid pro quo claim
is made out whether the employee rejects the advances and
suffers the consequences or submits to the advances in order
to avoid those consequences.”)
while the email evidence certainly speaks to whether the
sexual advances were unwelcome, it does not refute whether
there was a sexual relationship between Plaintiff and her
alleged employer, Mr. Rogers. Moreover, Defendants
acknowledge that Plaintiff's employment was terminated by
Mr. Rogers, although Defendants dispute the nature of the
employment relationship. Thus, at this ...