Villanueva v. City of Colton, 160 Cal. App. 4th 1188 (2008)

After Daniel Villanueva was demoted from Lead Operator to Operator II, he sued the city for discrimination based on race, national origin, ethnicity or skin color and for retaliation for his having complained about the alleged discrimination. The trial court granted summary judgment to the city after concluding Villanueva had made “unsupported charges of race discrimination against a number of people” based on hearsay and after finding no evidence of racial animus or other impermissible employment activity — and, in particular, noting that in two prior grievances he had lodged he failed to allege any discrimination or harassment based on his race. The trial court also ordered Villanueva to pay the city’s attorney’s fees in the amount of $39,472.30. The Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of the lawsuit and the award of attorney’s fees under Cal. Gov’t Code § 12965(b) because the action was “unreasonable, frivolous and meritless” and because Villanueva offered no evidence of his alleged inability to pay the city’s fees. Compare Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 160 Cal. App. 4th 410 (2008) (trial court erred in denying employee’s motion for $871,000 in attorney’s fees after recovering $11,500 from a jury after five years of litigation); Harrington v. Payroll Entm’t Services, Inc., 160 Cal. App. 4th 589 (2008) (employee entitled to $500 in attorney’s fees after settling claim involving $44.63 in unpaid overtime for $10,500); Lussier v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., 518 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2008) (putative class representatives were not entitled to recover their attorney’s fees following their successful motion to remand wage and hour class action that employer removed to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020;, co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.