Bright worked for the defendant?s Human Resources Department. During her employment, the defendant conducted an investigation concerning possible ethical violations by her and others. While the investigation was ongoing, Bright took a leave of absence, and then filed suit alleging racial discrimination under the WLAD, RCW 48.60.180. Thereafter, Bright requested an accommodation based upon a psychological disability. The employer denied the accommodation and terminated Bright from employment due to ?serious misconduct.? Bright amended her complaint to allege retaliation and failure to accommodate.
On summary judgment, the racial discrimination claims were dismissed. At trial, the jury found against Bright on the retaliation claim, but in her favor on the failure to accommodate claim and awarded $475,000 in damages. Plaintiff was awarded? reasonable? attorney? fees? on? the? basis that there was a ?common core of facts? and ?related legal theories.? The defendant appealed the award of attorney fees.
The amount of an award of attorney fees under the WLAD is reviewed for abuse of discretion. A trial court abuses its discretion if a decision is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds or untenable reasons. Because the defendant did not challenge the trial court?s findings of fact, they were verities on appeal.
The defendant argued that the recovery was substantially less than the amount requested and anticipated. But the Court of Appeals rejected that argument because the recovery substantially exceeded? the? settlement? offers,? and? ?[t]he? trial court has discretion in determining the plaintiff’s degree of success.?
The court also determined that there was a ?common core of facts in both her discrimination claims challenging the decision to terminate.? The court rejected the defendant?s argument that the claims could have been filed in separate lawsuits: ?Courts should treat claims as separate lawsuits when ?they? are ?both? factually? and ?legally unrelated.?
The award of attorney fees was affirmed and attorney fees awarded on appeal.?Bright v. Frank Russell Investments, — Wn. App. —,? 361? P.3d? 245? (11/2/2015). ?(Cox, ?Lau, Applewick).