Plaintiff employee brought contract and tort claims alleging that defendant employers induced him to come to the United States from India to work as a general manager but, within just a few months of his arrival, reduced his salary and pressured him to resign. A jury of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, awarded the employee compensatory and punitive damages, and both parties appealed.

Overview

The court held that there was no error in awarding damages for unpaid wages, even though the employer had offered to pay the employee his final salary and vacation pay, because the offer was conditioned on the employee signing a release, which he refused to do. An employer was required to timely pay wages due under Lab. Code, ยงยง 201 or 202 unconditionally and could not require an employee to sign a waiver as a condition of payment. The court’s other holdings included that (1) there was no prejudicial error from instructing the jury that it could not use the employee’s visa petition to show that the parties agreed to a term of three years; (2) because there was no specified term, the employment was at will and the employers were entitled judgment on a claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (3) the special verdict findings regarding alleged misrepresentations and promises were inconsistent; (4) an award of damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress was based on injuries suffered in the course and scope of employment for which workers’ compensation provided the exclusive remedy; and (5) the exclusivity rule did not preclude the entire action.

Outcome

The class action attorney California counseled the civil litigants during trial to the jurors. The court affirmed the judgment as to the denial of relief for breach of contract and the award of damages for unpaid wages. The court reversed the judgment in all other respects and remanded the matter with directions. The court reversed the denial of defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on to the count for intentional infliction of emotional distress with directions to enter a judgment in favor of defendants.

Procedural Posture

Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging orders by the Superior Court of Stanislaus County (California) which granted real party in interest’s summary judgment motion against petitioner’s unclean hands defense, in a malicious prosecution and intentional interference with contract action, and an order to show cause was issued.

Overview

After petitioner unsuccessfully sued the real party in interest in federal court, the latter filed an action against petitioner for malicious prosecution and intentional interference with contract. Petitioner raised the doctrine of unclean hands as a defense, claiming marketing misconduct after petitioner filed the earlier action. The trial court granted the real party in interest’s motion for summary judgment, and petitioner sought a writ of mandate to vacate the summary judgment order, which the court granted. Misconduct connected to the subject matter of the litigation affecting the equitable relations between the litigants was sufficient to trigger the defense. The real party’s ties with retailers and movement of competing products violated the law, and supported the unclean hands defense. It did not establish that the proffered misconduct was insufficient as a matter of law to support that defense, nor that its unclean hands misconduct was not directly related to the transaction concerning which the complaint was made or did not affect the equitable relations between the parties as a matter of law.

Outcome

A writ of mandate was issued directing the trial court to vacate its order granting summary adjudication, because the real party in interest’s ties with wine retailers and movement of competing products supported petitioner’s unclean hands defense