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Good news: Court rules employee suit frivolous–Bad news: You probably won’t recover legal fees

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

When an employer loses a discrimination or other job-related lawsuit, the employee who sued typically recovers attorneys’ fees in addition to any lost pay or other damages. The same isn’t true if the employee loses.

Chances are, even if a court rules that the employee filed a frivolous case, you’ll get back only a small fraction of your costs.

Recent case: Rene Jimenez was accident prone, a drawback for some­­one whose job was to drive a bus transporting patients at Saddle­­back Memorial Medical Cen­­ter. A series of minor collisions allegedly left him in excruciating pain. Over the years, he collected disability payments for many of his injuries.

After his last accident, he re­­quested reasonable accommodations for what he said was a disability.

The medical center referred Jimenez for an independent medical examination. The doctor was suspicious about the injuries, especially after Jimenez was filmed detailing his BMW without any signs of pain or injury. He was denied accommodations.

Jimenez sued, but lost after all the evidence came in, showing what the court concluded was at best malingering and at worst plain and simple lies.

But when Saddleback Memorial asked that Jimenez pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the court refused. It said that paying more than a few thousand dollars would ruin Jimenez, who made less than $30,000 per year. (Jimenez v. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, No. G043233, Court of Appeal of California, 4th Appellate Division, 2011)

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