There’s an old saying that goes something like this…
“What you don’t know can kill you…”
Now you’re probably asking – “What’s that got to do with employment law?”
Many employers assume that in the event of a legal claim made against them – each party pays their own attorney fees.
While that is true in most cases – in wage and hour disputes, that is often not the case. If an employee in Connecticut sues an employer over a matter of wages and/or hours and wins – not only does the employer likely have to pay compensatory, punitive and economic damages – but they often have to pay the employee’s attorney fees.
And yes, that can get VERY expensive.
A case in point is a matter recently resolved by jury trial in the United States District Court for Connecticut involving Michael Barham (employee) vs. Walmart.
Not only did the jury find in favor of Mr. Barham – awarding him $550,000 in compensatory, punitive and economic damages – they also awarded him his attorney fees.
Now hold on to your seat…
The “Court awarded Mr. Barham $973,083.50 in attorney’s fees and $30,960.24 in costs following extensive briefing by the parties… Mr. Barham argued that his attorney, Ms. Peters-Hamlin, deserved an hourly rate of $650 an hour. Walmart argued that $250 was an appropriate rate but failed to submit any evidence rebutting Ms. Peters-Hamlin’s submission and did not “cite to any relevant precedent on this issue.” The Court concluded that “Ms. Peters-Hamlin’s level of skill, experience, and relative success, as well as her billing, is sufficient to warrant an hourly rate of $500.”
Total cost to Walmart: ~$1,553,000
The painful moral of this story for Connecticut employers? When it comes to wage and hour disputes – cases that seem like relatively minor matters can become anything but.
If you are an employer in Connecticut and have questions about labor law and employment law, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. Each of us has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment and labor law and can help you with this complicated topic. Please contact us if we can help you.