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Karlen v. Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 9, 2014

Todd Karlen, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., Defendant - Appellant Todd Karlen, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., Defendant - Appellee

Submitted March 12, 2014.

Page 864

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis.

For Todd Karlen, Plaintiff - Appellee (13-2379): Kenneth Hiroyasu Fukuda, Sonia Miller-Van Oort, Sapientia Law Group, Minneapolis, MN.

For Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., Defendant - Appellant (13-2379): Jaime N. Cole, Hal A. Shillingstad, Ogletree & Deakins, Minneapolis, MN.

For Todd Karlen, Plaintiff - Appellant (13-2835): Kenneth Hiroyasu Fukuda, Sonia Miller-Van Oort, Sapientia Law Group, Minneapolis, MN.

For Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., Defendant - Appellee (13-2835): Jaime N. Cole, Hal A. Shillingstad, Ogletree & Deakins, Minneapolis, MN.

Before COLLOTON, SHEPHERD, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 865

KELLY, Circuit Judge.

Following his termination from Jones Lang Lasalle, Americas, Inc., (JLLA), Todd Karlen sued JLLA for, inter alia, failure to pay him a commission on a deal tat closed shortly after his departure. JLLA moved for summary judgment, and Karlen responded. The district court sua sponte granted summary judgment for Karlen and held that JLLA had wrongfully withheld commission payments; the district court consequently awarded Karlen the amount of the commission as well as statutory penalties for late payment under Minn. Stat. § § 181.03, 181.13, and attorney's fees and costs under Minn. Stat. § 181.171. JLLA appeals the district court's order that it owed Karlen both a commission and statutory penalties. Karlen appeals the district court's reduction of his requested attorney's fees. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we reverse the district court's order granting summary judgment for Karlen and vacate the resulting award of attorney's fees and costs.

I. Background

From May 2010 until January 2012, Karlen was employed as a leasing specialist for JLLA, a commercial real estate company. Karlen acted as a broker, locating and securing retail tenants for JLLA's clients. Karlen's original compensation structure consisted of an annual salary of $75,000 with the opportunity to earn an annual end-of-year bonus based on performance. In January 2012, JLLA changed its compensation structure for all employees to a salary plus commissions. Karlen's base salary was lowered to $60,000, but he had the opportunity to earn " up to 30% of the leasing revenue" that he directly generated starting January 1, 2012. Karlen was also eligible to receive up to a 10% commission on leases secured by other sales representatives in his assigned territory.

Shortly after the compensation change, on January 31, 2012, Karlen was terminated for performance reasons. JLLA notes that from 2010 through the end of 2011, Karlen was consistently rated a low performer. At the time of his termination, Karlen was in the process of completing a lease deal with a tenant, Primebar: all substantive negotiations had been completed, and the final lease had been sent to Primebar for its signature. Karlen estimated that his 30% commission on the Primebar deal ...


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