Under federal attorney fee shifting statutes, including Title VII, “the touchstone of the prevailing party inquiry must be the material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties.”  When the plaintiff receives a favorable enforceable judgment on the merits or a court-approved consent decree, the plaintiff is the prevailing party.  When the defendant secures a judgment in its favor, even on non-merits grounds, it is the prevailing party.  Though the defendant might prefer a determination on the merits, a non-merits dismissal of the claims against it still represents a victory sufficient to serve as the springboard for an award of attorney fees. 

United States Supreme Court (Kennedy, J.; Thomas, J., concurring); May 19, 2016; 2016 WL 2903425