The Price of Discrimination — Helpful Facts For Nevada EmployeesFiled under Employment Law
One of the most frequently asked questions by clients is how much money they can recover under Title VII (the main federal anti-discrimination law). For many people, this can be a confusing area of the law. “How much” a discriminated employee can recover is a function of what the employee is suing for. In the “news you can use” category, a Nevada employee should understand that the basic types of relief (i.e. awards) in Title VII cases are as follows:
This is typically the most common type of relief. Basically, back pay consists of the salary wages (and other fringe benefits) the employee would have earned from the date of the adverse employment action (i.e. wrongful termination) to the date of trial. For example, if an employee is fired on January 1st and trial ends favorably for the employee on October 1st, the employee would be entitled to the salary she would have earned had she still been employed for the 10-month period from between being fired to winning at trial.
Front pay is a type of damages award that covers the period of time from when a worker wins at trial to the period when they are able to locate employment offering similar wages to what they were earning at the previous job in which they were discriminated. Front pay is basically a monetary award that is forward looking and intended to cover the period until a worker can get back on his or her feet. A worker can recover for both back pay and front pay.
The easiest way to think of “compensatory damages” is to think of this as money to compensate a worker for what he or she has lost as a result of the illegal discrimination. For example, if a worker is fired for refusing the sexual advances of her employer, she could sue and receive compensatory damages for future lost opportunities that she would have received had she not been fired in the first place. Also, these types of damages can compensate a worker for emotional distress, inconvenience, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
It is important to understand that there are defined limits to compensatory damages. In other words, a worker’s ability to recover compensatory damages is capped at certain amounts depending upon the size of the employer. The limits are as follows:
The reason these caps exist is because, in passing anti-discrimination laws, Congress wanted to balance an employee’s right to be compensated for discrimination while at the same time protecting businesses from jury awards that could bankrupt an entire company. Thus, the caps exist as a tradeoff between these two important interests.
Many times people will read in the newspaper that a jury awarded a multimillion dollar verdict to a discriminated employee. It is important to remember, because of the caps, very high jury verdicts will be reduced to fit the maximum allowed under the cap. Thus, what an employee wins may not be what she receives.
If an employer has engaged in “intentional discrimination” or has acted with malice or reckless indifference for the rights of the employee, they can be punished through an award of punitive damages. As the name would imply, this type of damages award is intended to punish the employer for wrongful conduct.
The same caps that apply to compensatory damages apply to punitive damages awards. Thus, how much an employee can recover in punitive damages will depend on the size of the employer.
This is not a type of damages award but rather a form of relief where money is not enough. For example, a worker who enjoys her job but is experiencing ongoing harassment can file a claim with an appropriate court seeking to have the harassment stop. In those cases where the worker is fired, she can seek to have the court order her reinstatement and order the company to stop future discrimination.
Litigation can be expensive and complicated. A worker who sues and wins based upon a discrimination claim can recover attorney’s fees.