In a recent case from the Fifth Circuit, the Court held that attorney’s fees are not recoverable for a prevailing plaintiff in a Title VII mixed-motive retaliation case. In Carter v. Luminant Power Serv. Co., the plaintiff employee brought a Title VII discrimination and retaliation claim alleging that he was disciplined for his complaints of racial discrimination. A jury found that Carter’s complaints motivated Luminant’s disciplinary decision but it also found that Luminant would have made the same decision despite Carter’s complaints (i.e., the mixed-motive defense). Because the plaintiff only prevailed on his retaliation claim and the employer established its mixed-motive defense, the trial court taxed court costs against the plaintiff employee. Carter asked the trial court to re-tax costs and attorney’s fees against Luminant because he prevailed on his retaliation claim. The trial court refused to do so concluding that the fees and costs shifting provisions of Title VII do not apply to a mixed-motive retaliation claim.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the trial court reasoning that since the mixed-motive fee and cost shifting provisions of Title VII only refer to the prohibitions against Title VII discrimination action, those provisions did not apply to mixed-motive retaliation actions.
You can download a copy of Carter v. Luminant Power Serv. Co., here.
Follow me on Twitter @RussellCawyer