I’m sometimes asked how I report on employment law cases in such a prompt manner. There’s no magic formula but I will let you in on a little shortcut I use to skim a series of new cases.
Instead of reading an entire case, my eyes first glance at the listed attorneys in the case.
Why? Because I know of many of the lawyers practicing employment law in the state and it’s the easiest and quickest way to figure out if the case relates to employment law. It’s not foolproof, but it works about 90 percent of the time.
My excitement level rises in a few such cases where I see that Charles Krich, an attorney for the CHRO, has filed an amicus curiae (or "friend of the court") brief to provide some additional support to a party’s position. After all, if the CHRO gets involved, most of the time there is a concept that the agency believes it ought to support and get a judicial decision on.
So when I saw that the CHRO had filed an amicus brief in an Appellate Court decision yesterday (Perez v. D&L Tractor Trailer School (officially released October 27, 2009)) I got a little pumped. Significant employment law decisions are few and far between and I hoped this case would shed some light on an interesting subject.
Unfortunately, from an intellectual perspective, the decision falls flat.
The court had the opportunity to address an important issue on the proper calculation of attorneys fees in a sexual harassment claim. But the appellate court, in essence, skirted the issue because the employee never asked the lower court to articulate the reasoning for its decision. As a result, the appellate court held that it has no justification for overturning the lower court decision.
The CHRO had filed a brief hoping that the court would also address whether it was proper for an employer to file a counterclaim against the employee for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" but again, the decision declined to tackle the issue head on saying that issue was also not properly raised or preserved by the plaintiff.
(As an aside, here’s a request to the CHRO: How about posting your amicus curiae briefs on the website as a public service, much like the EEOC does?)
Ultimately, the Appellate Court affirmed the jury’s verdict. Many of the remaining issues are handled on procedural or evidentiary grounds that are difficult to draw lessons from.
Cases like this aren’t uncommon; parties have a right to appeal to the appellate court and sometimes it is done as much for tactical reasons as anything else. And for the parties involved, the case is no doubt important.
But cases like this are the equivalent of a brown paper bag: functional, but utterly devoid of any distinguishing characteristics.
Employment law practitioners may find it of interest but employers aren’t going to learn much from it other than of the importance to having your attorneys preserve a proper appellate record.