Californians who sue unsuccessfully for discrimination can’t be penalized with orders to pay their employer’s or landlord’s legal costs unless their suit was obviously baseless, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. […] the court said suits under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act are different because the law was intended to encourage individuals, who believe their rights were violated, to pursue their claims without fear of serious financial losses. In these cases, “even ordinary litigation costs can be substantial, and the possibility of their assessment could significantly chill the vindication of employees’ civil rights,” said Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar in the 7-0 ruling. The court said the 1980 California law should be interpreted in line with a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set standards for federal civil rights cases. Under those standards, a plaintiff who sues and loses must pay the other side’s legal costs only if the trial judge decides that the claims of discrimination obviously had no factual basis to begin with, or that the plaintiff continued with the suit after its lack of foundation became obvious. Judith Islas, a lawyer for the fire district, disagreed with the ruling and said employer organizations should ask the Legislature to change the law and establish a uniform standard for recovering legal costs.
Source: State court aids unsuccessful plaintiffs in discrimination suits – SFGate