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Barech v. City of Portland

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 10, 2015

INAYATULLAH KHAN BARECH, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF PORTLAND, a municipal corporation, Defendant

For Inayatullah Khan Barech, Plaintiff: Carl Lee Post, Cynthia J. Gaddis, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Daniel J. Snyder, Law Offices of Daniel Snyder, Portland, OR.

For City of Portland, a municipal corporation, Defendant: Heidi K. Brown, LEAD ATTORNEY, Portland City Attorney Office, Portland, OR.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

JOHN V. ACOSTA, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Inayatullah Kahn Barech (" Barech") sued Defendant City of Portland (" the City") for employment discrimination, wrongful termination, and violations of Oregon's whistleblower protection statutes. Barech accepted the City's offer of judgment under Rule 68 (the " Offer of Judgment"). (Dkt. No. 11 Ex. A.) In the Offer of Judgment, the City agrees to pay " costs, and including reasonable attorney's fees . . . ." (Dkt. No. 11 Ex. A at 1.) Barech now moves for an award of attorney fees and costs. The City does not dispute its duty to pay attorney fees or Barech's attorneys' requested hourly-rate, but contends the number of hours worked by Barech's counsel is unreasonable. The court should grant in part and deny in part Barech's motion, and award him $13, 196.39 in fees and costs.

Factual Background

Barech was born in Pakistan and is of a South-Asian ethnicity. (Complaint[1] (" Compl.") at ¶ 9.) He is also a practicing Muslim. (Compl. at ¶ 9.) He became a United Stated citizen in 1998, and resides in the State of Oregon where, prior to the events described herein, he worked as an information systems analyst for the Portland Bureau of Technology Services. (Compl. at ¶ 11.)

In his complaint, Barech alleged that throughout his tenure with the City he experienced discrimination from his superiors on the basis of his ethnicity, national origin, and religion. (Compl. at ¶ ¶ 47-123.) After Barech complained about the discrimination to the City's human resources department, the City began investigating Barech's employment record and conduct. (Compl. at ¶ 30.) At the conclusion of the investigation, the City presented Barech with a " proposed termination letter." (Brown Decl. Ex. 6.) Barech worked with his attorney to draft a written rebuttal to the City's letter (the " pre-termination letter"). (Brown Decl. Ex. 7.) Eventually, the City terminated Barech's employment. (Brown Decl. Ex. 6.)

After his termination, Barech filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (" BOLI") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC") alleging employment discrimination. (Compl. at ¶ 4.) BOLI did not find substantia! evidence to pursue the matter on his behalf and, on November 29, 2013, issued a right-to-sue letter. (Brown Decl. Ex. 9.) Thereafter, the EEOC adopted BOLI's findings and issued its own right-to-sue letter. (Brown Decl. Ex. 10.) In February 2014, Barech filed his civil complaint which alleged claims for: (1) employment discrimination on the basis of race, national, origin, and religious affiliation; (2) retaliation for opposing the Defendant's discriminatory practices; (3) unlawful employment practices; (4) whistleblower retaliation; and (5) wrongful discharge. (Compl. at 14-23.)

Only months after Barech filed his complaint, the City served Barech with the Offer of Judgment. (Dkt. No. 11 Ex, A at 1-2.) Barech accepted the Offer of Judgment and filed it with the court. According to the Offer of Judgment, the City agreed to pay $40, 001.00 " plus costs, and including reasonable attorney's fees to be determined by the court, as of the date of this offer." (Dkt. No 11 Ex. A). Barech now asks the court to award him $15, 458.50 in attorney fees and $530.76 in costs. After reviewing Barech's motion and the City's objections, the court concludes Barech's motion should be granted in part, and he should be awarded $12, 665.63 in attorney fees and $530.76 in costs.

Discussion

The City does not dispute it owes reasonable attorney fees as stipulated in the Offer of Judgment. Nor does City oppose the hourly-rate Barech proposes for the fee calculation. However, it argues the court should summarily deny Barech's claim on procedural grounds, and challenges the number of hours for which Barech seeks fees. According to the City, a portion of the hours claimed by Barech's attorney were unreasonable, duplicative, and unrelated to the claims at issue in this case.

I. Legal Authority for Attorney Fees

The City first levies a procedural challenge against Barech's fee petition. According to City, the court should summarily deny Barech's motion because he " fails to cite to any authority in support of his claim for attorney fees and costs." (Def.'s Objections to PL's Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs (" Def.'s Obj.") at 2.) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54 does not substantively authorize awards of attorney's fees, but articulates the procedural prerequisites to an attorney-fee award. Among other things, a party filing a Rule 54 motion for attorney fees must " specify the judgment and the statute, rule or other grounds entitling the movant to the award[.]" But the City fails to provide authority for the proposition that a motion to fix fees pursuant to a Rule 68 offer of judgment is subject to the strict procedural requirements of Rule 54(d). Nor does City provide support for its argument that failure to strictly comply with Rule 54's procedural dictates should result in and outright denial of all fees, despite the existence of a binding agreement, the Offer of Judgment, that the movant is ...


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