Shames v. Utility Consumers’ Action Network

Employee who prevailed in suit for nonpayment of wages or benefits was not entitled to an attorney fee award under Labor Code 218.5 because his complaint did not clearly seek a fee award under that statute.  Labor Code 218.5 allows an award of attorney fees to the prevailing party in a suit for nonpayment of wages, fringe benefits, or health and welfare or pension fund contributions, “if any party to the action requests attorneys’ fees and costs upon the initiation of the action.”  Assuming without deciding that a clear request for fees under this section would be sufficiently “upon the initiation” if made in an amended complaint, the court nevertheless holds that the plaintiff, who prevailed on a claim for bonus pay under the employer’s incentive program, could not recover attorney fees under section 218.5 because his amended complaint did not clearly request such an award.  The amended complaint mentioned section 218.5 only in a different claim on which plaintiff lost, and in that claim it was cited solely to support a claim for damages for fees already incurred.  His claim for the bonus pay did not request an attorney fee award at all.

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District (Aaron, J.); June 29, 2017; 2017 WL 2807920

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