Ling v. P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc.Annotate this Case
Ling's employment as a Monterey restaurant manager was terminated. Her position was classified as exempt under Industrial Wage Order 5-2001(1)(B)(1), from overtime compensation and mandated meal periods. Ling sued, seeking unpaid overtime wages, waiting time penalties, and premium pay for failure to provide meal and rest periods; she alleged unfair competition and sought attorney‘s fees and costs. An arbitrator rejected Ling’s claim that she was wrongly classified and her contention that chronic staffing shortages required her to spend time performing nonexempt hourly work. Based on nine weeks when she attended training, Ling was compensated $1,038 for missed meal periods and $7,668 in waiting time penalties. The arbitrator deemed employer the prevailing party on all but that minor issue, awarded employer $29,046 in costs and $212,685 in attorney‘s fees based on the dominant contention of erroneous classification.The court corrected and remanded. The court of appeal agreed that the arbitrator exceeded his power by awarding statutory attorney‘s fees to an employer for work performed in defeating inextricably intertwined claims, contrary to public policy embedded in the Labor Code‘s one-way fee shifting provision. The court upheld the trial court‘s remedy and subsequent order confirming an award to plaintiff of costs but not attorney‘s fees based on intervening California Supreme Court authority.