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I write to respond to the cover story titled “Worker’s Paradise” which ran in the Monday [Dec. 29] issue. Few things tickle my funny bone more than employment defense lawyers complaining about billing their clients. Lawyers who cry that the sky’s falling due to the Jan. 1 implementation of Labor Code 2699 (SB 796), known as the Labor Law Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, need a reality check. As a plaintiffs-side attorney who represents primarily low-wage Latino immigrant workers in workforce-wide wage and hour litigation, I know first hand of the importance of the implementation of LC 2699. It means immigrants and hourly workers who have the courage to step forward to complain of exploitation by unscrupulous employers will now recover past-due wages not only for themselves individually, but also for the entire workforce. I expect that LC 2699 will have a positive impact on California’s immigrant population. It will force some employers to actually comply with the law or risk paying steep and justified penalties. And with respect to the fear-mongering defense bar complaints about implementation of SB 777, which requires employers to post a whistle-blower 800 number to help employees report worksite abuses to the attorney general, one would think that such an open policy would encourage, not inhibit, worker/employer relations. Employers who comply with the wage and hour requirements have nothing to worry about. The reality is — this surge of wage and hour litigation has created a billing bonanza for defense lawyers. In a recent case where we secured $181,669 for our farm worker clients, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell awarded plaintiffs $448,562 in reasonable attorneys fees. The award included the full Lodestar without reduction. Why? To quote the judge, “It would have been improvident for plaintiffs lawyers to short-cut their preparation in view of defendants’ unflinching opposition and claim of no liability. This despite the existence of case law that strongly favored plaintiffs’ position.” In the end, employers who are currently involved in these wage and hour cases should closely monitor their defense lawyers to prevent filing frivolous motions and unnecessary pleadings that will only cost them more in the long run. Better yet, employers might want to pay employees pursuant to California law to avoid both facing the ramifications of Labor Code 2699, and hearing their defense bar lawyers complain about recovering billable fees. Mark Talamantes San Francisco

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