Kristin's Blog
Muniz v. United Parcel Service, Inc.: Employer Found Liable on a Plaintiff’s FEHA Gender Discrimination Held to Pay $700,000 in Attorney’s Fees

Kim Muniz sued her employer for discrimination in a California State Superior Court. Due to diversity jurisdiction, UPS removed the case to the federal court. The jury tried the case and returned a verdict in Ms. Muniz’s favor, concluding that UPS discriminated against her based on gender. The jury’s total award for damages was $27,280. Ms. Muniz subsequently sought an award for attorney’s fees; following oral argument, the court awarded her attorneys $697,971.80. UPS appealed challenging the award.

UPS argued that the district court did not properly calculate the damages in the case due to Ms. Muniz’s limited success: she prevailed on gender discrimination, but not on her age discrimination and retaliation claims. The district court addressed the disparity between the damages recovered and the fees awarded.  “We are not convinced that California law requires the trial court to reduce that disparity.  See Beaty [v. BET Holdings, Inc. (9th Cir. 2000) 222 F.3rd 607] at 612-613: (‘[A] trial court does not under California law abuse its discretion by simply awarding fees in an amount higher, even very much higher, than the damage awarded, where successful litigation causes conduct which FEHA was enacted to deter to be exposed and corrected.’)…)

Thus, where FEHA laws were enacted to deter unlawful employer conduct, an employer who violates these laws faces pecuniary exposure, not just amounting to payment of lost wages and emotional distress, but attorneys’ fees as well.

To read full opinion, click here.

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