If the purpose of an employment discrimination case is to make the victim whole, or put them back in the same position they were in, or should have been in, had discrimination not occurred, then what types of damages can you receive in a wrongful termination case? There are actually several types, including economic damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and liquidated damages. However, there may be limitations regarding which type of damages you may be entitled to and how much you could receive.
Economic damages in employment discrimination cases
The primary component of any employment discrimination case is economic damages. This includes repayment of lost wages, typically referred to as back pay and front pay. These two types of damages are very different, especially in how they are calculated. Regardless, these types of damages often represent the largest part of a damages award in an employment discrimination case.
Back pay awards
Back pay refers to the amount of wages lost as a result of being terminated from the date the aggrieved employee was terminated until the time of trial. This amount will include not only lost wages, but also bonuses, benefits and overtime pay to which the employee was entitled. Employees are, however, required to take steps to mitigate their back pay damages by looking for new employment, if they are able to work. The wages earned in at a new job will usually be used to offset the back pay damages award.
Front pay awards
Front pay, on the other hand, is compensation for lost wages during the time between the judgment obtained in court and reinstatement into the position from which the employee was terminated. Many employers do not offer reinstatement, so a front pay award may be applicable in lieu of reinstatement. This is a discretionary type of damages intended to make an employee who when there is no reasonable expectation that he or she will find comparable alternative employment.
Compensatory damages in employment cases
Compensatory damages are essentially meant to reimburse an employee for out-of-pocket losses resulting from discrimination in the workplace. This can include medical expenses and any costs associated with job searches necessitated by the loss of employment. Compensatory damages can also include emotional harm such as loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, and mental anguish.
Punitive damages permitted under Title VII
The purpose of punitive damages, as the name suggests, is to punish the employer for especially malicious or reckless discriminatory actions. In order to establish entitlement to punitive damages, you must show one of two things: that your employer discriminated or retaliated against you with conscious knowledge that it was a violation of applicable law or that your employer engaged in egregious or outrageous conduct from which an inference of malice or reckless indifference could be drawn.
Under Title VII, although punitive damages are allowed, they are limited in amount based on the number of employees the guilty employer has. Punitive damages can range from $50,000 for an employer with 100 employees or less to $300,000 for an employer with more than 500 employees.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.