Awarding Attorney Fees in Employment Cases

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What Is an Employment Lawsuit?

Employment lawsuits often revolve around employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability.

What Laws Govern Awarding Attorney Fees?

Federal legislation addressing employment law include: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), among others.

These laws include "fee shifting" provisions, awarding attorneys’ fees to the discriminated-against individual. Under these statutes, winning attorneys are dubbed "private attorney generals," charged with enforcing the rights of the public.

Are There Any Restrictions on the Award of Fees?

The Supreme Court has ruled that winning employees are not entitled to attorney’s fees without obtaining a final judgment on the matter. The reasoning behind this is that public policy encourages employers to voluntarily change their practices without fear of penalty in so doing.

In employment cases in state court, an award of attorney’s fees depends on state statute. The general rule is that attorneys’ fees cannot be awarded absent statutory authority. Specifically, state hearings officers and human rights referees, depending on state law, may or may not be granted the authority for awarding attorneys’ fees in employment discrimination cases. The statute may not mention anything about it, in which case it is up to the courts to decide what the statute means.

How Are Fees Calculated?

Once the court determines that an award of attorney fees are allowed, the calculation of the actual amount depends on the time, labor, and skill of the attorney, the novelty and difficulty of the issues, the giving up of other work, and the usual fees for employment cases.

Should I Contact an Attorney for an Employment Case?

If you are facing the possibility of litigating an employment case, an employment attorney can help you. An attorney will help evaluate your case, and determine whether fees are allowed or not.

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Last Modified: 01-16-2014 12:05 PM PST

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