Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lawyers make big money from Menards

Devoted follower(s) of the Blog may recall my post on the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in Sands v. Menard, Inc.

In short, Dawn Sands became the general counsel of the Menards chain of home-improvement stores, but continued to be paid a measly $56,000 per year (though the previous, and male, GC got about twice that much). Eventually she sued under the Equal Pay Act, etc., and won an arbitration. The arbitration ordered not only back pay, but also reinstatement to her position as the company's chief lawyer.

Eventually the case went to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which vacated the reinstatement portion of the arbitration award on the theory that it was against public policy to force a company to hire a lawyer it hates. (This raises the question of whether a company can hate, and more importantly the question of who the corporate attorney's client is—but see the previous post for my thoughts on that.)

That old post is one of my favorites because it presaged the blog's coming fixation with the turmoil on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I stand by my original opinion that the dissent made a good argument in 25 pages that would have been better made in a single paragraph, and that the remaining 24 pages only showed how ridiculous and petty the infighting on that court had already become. Subsequents events have, ahem, proved my point quite satisfactorily.

Anyhow, in lieu of reinstatement, the Court ordered the lower courts to make an award of front pay. As I noted recently in an update at the end of the original post, the circuit court eventually awarded about $600,000 in front pay and additional $600,000 or so in attorney's fees. Not a bad payday for the plaintiff, in addition to her $1.2mm in damages from the arbitration. And so the case finally came to a close.

Not so fast!

Menards has appealed!*

We bloggers can only hope the case gets back up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

*UPDATE: I should note that it may be that it is actually Sands who filed the latest appeal. She is indeed listed as the appellant, although Menards is listed as a cross-appellant. So apparently nobody was satisfied with the $1.2mm award.

FUTHER UPDATE (5.11.2013): On March 26, 2013, the Wisconsin court of appeals reversed the district court's decision. Essentially, the Court found that the circuit court judge should have considered whether to hold an evidentiary hearing on the front pay issues. So the case has been remanded for the court to reconsider that issue.

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