The Graham County Elec. Cooperative, Inc. v. Local Union pertains to the award of attorney’s fees and other costs. The defendant is the union, while the plaintiff is the cooperative. In a previous case involving these two parties, the union represented a company employee named Curley. After Curley was charged with a DUI, his commercial driving license was suspended. Since the suspension affected his ability to work, the company issued him with a thirty-day suspension. Curley appealed the suspension through the union, and an arbitrator reduced this suspension to one week. In the current case, the union seeks the award of attorney’s fees and related non-taxable expenses. The judge should not grant an award of attorney’s fees and related non-taxable expenses to the union because the case does not meet the standards required for such an award.
Another case, International Union of Petroleum & Industrial Workers v. Western Industrial Maintenance, Inc., set standards for granting or disallowing the award of attorney’s fees. The union represented Betty Sparks, a former employee of the company. Betty alleged that the company discriminated against her when it fired her. An arbitrator decided that the company violated the Articles of Agreement when it discharged Sparks and directed the company to indemnify her (“Intern. Union of PIW v. Western Indus. Main,” 1983). The company did not comply with the award issued by the arbitrator. Consequently, the union petitioned the district court for Betty’s reinstatement as well as attorney’s fees. The court ruled that the company’s refusal to comply with the arbitrator’s award without justification was grounds for compelling the company to pay attorney’s fee for the union.
Under American rule, each party is required to pay for their attorney. However, attorney’s fee awards compel one party to pay the legal fees for another party (Heller, 2018, p. 45). If one party acts in bad faith, the court may order them to pay “a reasonable attorney’s fee” to the other party” (Carroll, 2020, p. 1022). In the case pertaining to the discriminatory dismissal of Betty Sparks, the union was awarded union fees because it acted in bad faith by refusing to abide by the arbitrator’s award. However, in Graham County Elec. Cooperative, Inc. v. Local Union, there is no evidence that the company demonstrated bad faith. The company was not uncooperative during any stage of the arbitration process. Although the arbitrator did not provide sufficient explanation for why they reduced the suspension to only week, the company did not reject the decision, which shows that it did not act in bad faith.
Attorney’s fees can also be awarded where it can be established that one party acted in a manner that led to the lawsuit. The union may argue that the company acted in bad faith by suspending the employee for thirty days, leading to the lawsuit. However, the company had issued a notice to the employees that they would have to take vacation pay or leave without pay in case of a DUI-related suspension (“Graham County Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Local Union,” 2005). Hence, Curley was aware of the repercussions of his DUI charge. The company did not act in bad faith when it suspended Curley. Given the company was within its rights to suspend Curley; this action cannot be punished by awarding attorney’s fee to the union.
In conclusion, the judge should disallow attorney’s fees and costs in this case. The union cannot prove that the company acted in bad faith by suspending Curley. The company had issued a written notice to employees informing them of the consequences of a DUI charge; therefore, it was justified in suspending Curley. Since the case does not meet the standards required to grant attorney’s fees, each party will have to cover their own legal fees.
Carroll, M. (2020). Fee-shifting statutes and compensation for risk. Indiana Law Journal, 95(1022), 1022-1074.
Graham County Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Local Union No. 287, No. CV 04-527-TUC-CKJ (D. Ariz. 2005). Web.
Heller, T. A. (2018). An overview of the law of attorney fees in the United States: The American rule is not so simple after all. LeXonomica Journal of Law and Economics, 10(1), 45-66. Web.
Intern. Union of PIW v. Western Indus. Main., 707 F.2d 425 (9th Cir. 1983). Web.