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More courts lose patience with frivolous claims; they’re asking failed litigants to pay up

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

There’s one silver lining to the rapid growth of employment lawsuits: Courts are losing patience with the rising number of applicants, employees and former employees who file suits that have no basis in reality.

Increasingly, courts are approving sanctions against such employees and their attorneys. This trend should make employees’ lawyers think twice before firing off a lawsuit every time a client is terminated, demoted or otherwise suffers harm.

Recent case: A group of 12 black employees sued their employer for alleged race discrimination. While some of the group had arguable claims, most of them had no evidence to back up their allegations.

The trial court dismissed the clearly frivolous claims. Then it ordered those employees and their attorney to pay their employer’s legal fees and costs—to the tune of $660,000!

The employees appealed, but the 6th Circuit said the sanctions were appropriate, although it did order the lower court to calculate what each employee’s share of the legal bill should be. (Garner, et al., v. Cayuga County Juvenile Court, No. 07-3602, 6th Cir., 2009)

The impact? Employers should expect the trend toward increasing lawsuits to continue as the recession drags on. Many of those will be frivolous claims.

Hopefully, decisions like this one will reduce the number as lawyers see the risk. After all, no attorney takes a case to lose money. This trend may also mean more cases will be settled early, for less money.

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