By Ben Roach
The Supreme Court of Iowa recently ruled that employees cannot be assessed court costs in a case related to unemployment compensation, even when they lose. See Hall v. Employment Appeal Board, _ N.W.2d _, No. 11-0389 (Iowa April 20, 2012). The ruling was based on the text of the Iowa unemployment statute that states: "An individual claiming benefits shall not be charged fees of any kind in any proceeding under this chapter … by a court or an officer of the court." Iowa Code Section 96.15(2).
The ruling is well supported by the statute, but does represent a departure from the typical situation in court cases and appeals. In most other cases, the loser has to pay all court costs. While the amount of court costs is often far less than the amount at stake in any particular case, on an appeal the costs can exceed $1,000 when considering all copying and other charges for required briefs and filings. When the losing party is an unemployed worker, removing this potential liability for a loss is significant. Additionally, employers and the State of Iowa will not be able to recover the court costs they have incurred when successful in district court and appeal cases. The "costs" at issue are filing fees, copying charges, and other court fees. This ruling does not change the fact that each side must pay its own attorney's fees in an unemployment case.