When employees win at least some part of their lawsuits, employers have gotten used to being stuck with paying employees’ attorneys’ fees. Those costs can add up to much more than the actual damages the employee is due.
But until recently, courts haven’t seen fit to make employees pay the other side’s legal fees if the verdict goes the employer’s way. That may be changing, if a recent 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals case is any indication.
Recent case: Janice Gilmore, who is black, worked in the fine jewelry and watch section at a Macy’s department store. She sued, claiming that black employees were denied access to the diamond safe and assignments to the most expensive jewelry counters.
A jury considered her claims and concluded Gilmore hadn’t been the victim of discrimination. Gilmore appealed the jury verdict, which cost Macy’s thousands more in legal fees and costs.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals saw no reason to interfere with the jury’s decision and dismissed the case. It also ordered Gilmore to reimburse Macy’s for its costs. However, it stopped short of ordering her to pay the actual legal fees, presumably because she wouldn’t be able to do so.
Nonetheless, the case represents an important shift in the court’s mindset. No longer can employees frivolously appeal their cases and expect to suffer no financial consequences when they lose. (Gilmore v. Macy’s Retail Holdings, No. 09-1695, 3rd Cir., 2010)