A recent Oregon Court of Appeals case, Rogers v. RGIS, LLP, presents an opportunity for employers. In Rogers, the court awarded an employer a whopping $180,854.09 in attorney fees. The plaintiff brought one lawsuit but several wage and hour claims (overtime, minimum wage, late payment of final wages, unpaid wages for rest and meal breaks).
The court found the plaintiff prevailed on a few claims, but the employer prevailed on most. As a result the employer was awarded six figures and the plaintiff was awarded only $880 to cover fees.
This case is saying that a prevailing party may recover fees, which relate to each separate wage claim. For example, if the plaintiff brings five separate wage claims and the employer prevails on four, the employer will (in the court’s discretion) get to recover its fees to defend against the four claims upon which it prevailed.
If you’re sued under Oregon wage and hour laws, you should seek fees under ORS 20.077 and 653.055(4). You can also use the potential for recovering fees as leverage before a lawsuit is filed. Will this logic be extended to other employment claims, such as discrimination and retaliation claims?