The award of reasonably compensatory attorneys’ fees are essential to the ability of ordinary people to obtain competent counsel who will be able to overcome the hurdles and obstacles set up by employers who have misclassified employees and failed to pay them the proper amounts, and are equally essential to enforcing the other laws in which Congress or the Maryland General Assembly have provided fee-shifting provisions.
The legislative purpose of these provisions is to ensure access to the courts for persons harmed by violations of the statutes with these provisions. This purpose is particularly strong with the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
The purpose of these statutes will be frustrated unless fee awards are reasonably compensatory. Rules of decision that merely focus on the proportionality between the clients’ recovery and the fee claim violate the legislative purpose because they ignore the steps reasonably necessary to achieve that result.
In particular, it is critical that a fee-awarding court examine the aggressiveness of the defense that the plaintiff had to overcome. Defendants that leave no stone unturned, no obstacle unerected, and no hurdle ignored, act within their rights but cannot then complain that it cost much additional time and expense to overcome their efforts.
Similarly, rules of decision that pluck from the air a factor asserted without record support to have prolonged the litigation, such as the plaintiffs’ failure to provide a precise estimate of their losses until late in the litigation, is inherently speculative and flawed as a rule of decision. The lower court’s speculative assumption based on its experience in mediating cases runs counter to the experience of the attorneys pursuing such cases, which is that defendants refusing to make offers or making minimal offers, are the primary obstacles to settlement, and that the plaintiff’s inability to come up with a precise figure has no effect on the ability to settle a case where the low range of settlement values is clear. The lower court’s denial of a reasonably compensatory fee on that basis will drive competent counsel away from the representation of the low-wage workers with whom the Federal and State legislatures were primarily concerned, rather than attracting them as the fee-shifting provisions require.
In particular, it violates the purpose of fee-shifting provisions to deny a reasonably compensatory fee to plaintiffs because a case has not settled, without examining the evidence as to the defendants’ settlement offers, if any.
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Welcome to the Web site of MWELA — the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association. We are about 300 lawyers who represent people in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
As advocates for employee rights and civil rights, we work to protect the rights and privileges of employees in both the private and public sectors of the Washington metropolitan area workforce. We are dedicated to promoting workplace fairness and the right of employees to work in an environment free of discrimination. MWELA provides assistance, support and resources to members throughout the metropolitan area to attain the highest ideals of practice and encourage the sharing of expertise and skills to best serve our clients.
On our vibrant and active listserve, MWELA members share strategies, tips, and responses to queries regarding both routine and novel employment law issues. The listserve is also available as an on-line searchable database, a powerful research tool.
MWELA holds monthly Brown Bag gatherings featuring presentations on trial strategies and techniques, emerging employment law issues, use of new courtroom technologies, successful litigation efforts, and other matters critical to a successful employment law practice.
Our Moot Court Committee regularly prepares our members for oral argument before appellate courts. MWELA's Amicus Committee produces thoughtful and excellent briefs on important policy matters before the courts of appeals, lending a powerful persuasive voice for the plaintiff and for employees generally. MWELA produces a monthly Newsletter covering member news, victories, and key decisions.
At our all-day Annual Conference, MWELA presents local and federal judges, colleagues, and outside experts on topics concerning all aspects of the plaintiff's employment practice. We also present our annual Lawyer of the Year award.
MWELA maintains an on-line Brief Bank, with ready arguments, briefs, and pleadings. MWELA works toward changes in public policy through the lobbying efforts of our members, to strengthen anti-discrimination and related workplace laws.
MWELA Case Advisory service offers two programs to both MWELA members and non-members. One is a Three-member Clinic Panel, which reviews a lawyer’s case either before it is filed or after it is pending and possibly encountering difficulties. The other is a Single Advisor Legal Consultation where an experienced MWELA attorney provides advice and tips on a particular topic to a less experienced lawyer. Topics may include areas of substantive law and procedure, litigation and trial practice, appeals, settlement agreements, and particular Court and administrative forums with which a lawyer may be unfamiliar.
MWELA is the local affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). NELA and its 68 state and local affiliates have more than 3,000 members. We strongly encourage our members to join NELA. For more information, please contact Ms. Colleen Goodin, Membership Director, NELA, (415) 296-7629 (email@example.com) or go to www.nela.org for an application. MWELA members receive a discount on NELA dues.
MWELA members can access our brief bank, listserve and newsletter archives, board meeting information, and other resources. If you are a lawyer and devote a majority of your employment practice to representing plaintiffs, join us.