Gramajo v. Joe’s Pizza on Sunset, Inc., 100 Cal. App. 5th 1094 (2024)

Elinton Gramajo worked as a pizza delivery driver for less than a year and sued his former employer for various Labor Code violations, including minimum and overtime wage claims.  After nearly four years of litigation and extensive discovery, a jury awarded Gramajo only $7,659.93 though his attorneys sought approximately $324,000 in prevailing party costs and attorney’s fees.  The trial court denied the requests for fees and costs in their entirety, finding that plaintiff’s counsel severely over-litigated the case and the requested fees and costs were grossly disproportionate to the limited trial success.  As an example, Gramajo’s counsel propounded 15 sets of written discovery requests and noticed 14 depositions, yet only admitted 12 exhibits at trial.  The trial court relied on Code of Civil Procedure section 1033(a), which gives trial courts discretion to deny prevailing plaintiffs their litigation costs when they file their case as an unlimited civil proceeding but only recover an amount available in a limited civil case.  The Court of Appeal reversed after concluding that Code of Civil Procedure section 1033(a) and Labor Code section 1194 (which provides a mandatory award of reasonable attorney’s fees to employees who prevail in their actions) are in “irreconcilable conflict,” but that Labor Code section 1194 ultimately controls because it is the more recently enacted and specific statute of the two.  The Court then remanded the matter for the trial court to determine a reasonable fee and cost award.

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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.