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Employees who sue and lose are now more likely liable for court costs

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

In a sign that courts want to discourage frivolous lawsuits, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the assessment of court costs after dismissing a failure-to-promote claim. This is an extremely promising development.

If employees know they may have to pay the costs associated with lawsuits they lose, chances are some will think twice before they sue. The same goes for the attorneys who represent them, since the money may come out of their pockets.

Recent case: Doris worked for a school district and had risen through the ranks from elementary teacher to interim school director. She assumed that role when the school director re­­signed; she held the position just below director on the organizational chart.

The school district then hired a consulting firm to conduct a search for a permanent director. Doris applied and was among the recommended and screened candidates. The school board reviewed all five final candidates. After each board member chose his or her top two candidates, two were tied. Doris wasn’t one of them. Following a tie-breaking vote, a man was selected.

Doris sued, alleging sex discrimination. But she offered no evidence that sex played a role either in past school director hirings or in this one.

She was assessed about $6,700 in legal costs and appealed. The 6th Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision. (Battle v. Haywood County Board of Education, No. 11-6255, 6th Cir., 2012)

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