Arbitrator's award of attorney fees in harassment and retaliation case is upheld
Lori Hunt brought an arbitration claim against her employer, Joseph Chevrolet, Inc. and Joseph Hood, alleging that she was retaliated against when she attempted to extricate herself from a relationship. The arbitrator awarded her damages of $168,000.00 and the Plaintiffs did not appeal. In a second stage of arbitration, the arbitrator awarded Hunt almost $300,000.00 in fees and costs, finding a violation of civil rights and the maintenance of a frivolous defense. Joseph Chevrolet filed suit in Circuit Court to set aside this award. Although the trial court did overturn the arbitrator's decision, on appeal the Court of Appeals struck down the lower court's ruling, finding that the arbitrator had not made an error of law and that the lower court had simply substituted its own judgment for that of the arbitrator. Given the strong public policy in favor of arbitration, the Court emphasized that the employer must be bound by the findings of fact of the arbitrator and cannot be allowed to chase a "second bite of the apple."