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Courts reluctant to make losing employees pay for employers’ legal fees

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

It can be frustrating to have to defend your organization against what you consider frivolous claims. Unfortunately, that’s just another cost of doing business.

As the following case shows, even when you win the case and thought it should never have been filed, you probably won’t persuade a court to penalize the employee by having him pay your legal fees.

Recent case: Carry worked as a municipal trash collector and was among a group of employees who belonged to a labor union. The collective bargaining agreement specified that qualified applicants could bid on promotion opportunities and the most senior employee would be awarded the job.

Carry had a terrible attendance record and had come close to being fired because of it. Still, he was the most senior worker who applied for a new job opening. However, another worker was selected.

Carry sued, alleging breach of contract.

The city argued that while Carry was technically qualified, it wasn’t limited to considering just experience; it could also consider other factors like reliability. Eventually, the court tossed out the case after agreeing with the employer’s definition of “qualified.”

The employer then asked for its attorneys’ fees, arguing that it had expended time and money defending against a frivolous claim.

The court refused to make Carry pay. It reasoned that while his claim wasn’t a winning one, it wasn’t entirely frivolous. (Amos v. City of Monroe, No. 14-30780, 5th Cir., 2014)

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