Is it possible to recover attorney’s fees in a civil rights lawsuit?

If you want to enforce your civil rights with a lawsuit, finding a civil rights lawyer is extremely important. Your right to be free from, for instance, discrimination under Title VII of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or any other piece of civil rights legislation, is best protected with a civil rights lawyer. If you are worried about attorney's fees in your civil rights lawsuit, don't be: though they may be considerable, you generally can recover your attorney's fees as long as you are the prevailing party.

Recovering Attorney's Fees

The prevailing party in a civil rights case is the party who wins the case. As the plaintiff, this would mean that you would need to prove that some type of civil rights violation had taken place. This could take the form of:

  • Overt discrimination (i.e. failure to be hired or promoted; being fired, or otherwise being discriminated against in any of the terms or conditions of your employment),
  • Hostile environment discrimination wherein your working conditions are made uncomfortable as a result of your protected status, and/or
  • Disparate impact discrimination, which means that there was a test or some other qualification or requirement at work that had a greater impact on people because of some type of protected status.

No matter what type of discrimination a plaintiff is alleging occurred, the prevailing party is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees if he wins. This rule is in place because the court wishes to encourage a plaintiff to come forward and protect his civil rights.

Reasonable fees are, of course, going to vary depending on the circumstances and the particular civil rights lawyer you have hired. As a general matter, however, the fees must be reasonable when considering 1) the amount of time that the civil rights lawyer spent building and presenting a case, and 2) the prevailing hourly rate in the state and field where the attorney is practicing.

Getting Help for Your Civil Rights Lawsuit

If you are concerned about attorney's fees in your case, the best person to ask about such fees is a civil rights lawyer. S/he can explain to you exactly how attorney's fees are assessed and can also help you determine whether the attorney's fees in your case are likely to be reimbursed.