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Prevailing Party and Attorney's Fees in Rest Break Cause of Action

On April 30th, 2012, in Kirby v. Immoos Fire Protection Inc. (California Supreme Court, No. S185827), the Court held that a prevailing defendant is not entitled to attorney's fees when the claim is not an "action brought for nonpayment of wages." The Court found that because the suit arose out of the employer's failure to provide meal and rest break periods, it was not to recover for the nonpayment of wages. The Court reasoned that the statute was intended to protect the health and safety of the workers. This means that claims arising out of failure to provide meal breaks does not entitle a prevailing defendant to attorney's fees because it is not synonymous with an "action brought for the nonpayment of wages."

In Kirby, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant failed to provide law-mandated meal and rest break periods. However, the plaintiffs ended up dismissing the complaint. This allowed the defendants to move for attorney's fees, which the trial court awarded. Ultimately, the California Supreme Court reversed this award after finding that suits brought under Labor Code Section 218.5 that do not allege nonpayment of wages cannot recover attorney's fees.

If you are experiencing a wage or hour dispute at your place of employment, please do not hesitate to contact a Southern California Employment Law attorney today.

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