Rouse v. Forsyth County Department of Social ServicesAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals invalidating a decision by an administrative law judge (ALJ) to award back pay and attorneys' fees to a local government employee protected under the North Carolina Human Resources Act who prevailed in a wrongful termination proceeding before the Office of Administrative Hearings, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 126-34.02 explicitly provides that an ALJ has the authority to award back pay and attorneys' fees to any protected state and local government employee.
Petitioner was dismissed from her employment with Forsyth County Department of Social Services on the grounds of grossly inefficient job performance and unacceptable personal conduct. An ALJ reversed the Department's decision to terminate Petitioner's employment on the grounds that the Department had violated Petitioner's procedural rights and lacked just cause to dismiss Petitioner from its employment. The ALJ then ordered the Department to reinstate Petitioner to her former position, with all applicable back pay and benefits, and to pay Petitioners' attorneys' fees. The court of appeals vacated the ALJ's decision in part, concluding that the ALJ lacked the authority to award back pay and attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ALJ had sufficient express statutory authority to award back pay and attorneys' fees to Petitioner.