If an employer is found guilty of an intentional act of discrimination or practices that have a discriminatory effect, an employee or potential employee may be entitled to employment discrimination damages. Damages may include awards such as back pay for lost wages or payment for pain and suffering. Employees may also be entitled to job reinstatement, promotion, or other corrective measures.
Eligibility for employment discrimination damages
An employee or potential employee must be eligible and follow an established protocol to be entitled to employment discrimination damages.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability, and age. If a person is subject to an act of employment discrimination, he or she must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident, or 300 days if a state or local anti-discrimination law applies. The laws are enforceable when employers have 15 or more employees (or 20 or more in cases of age discrimination). Gender-based wage discrimination is illegal for virtually all employers.
Damages may be awarded when the EEOC establishes discrimination has occurred and a settlement is reached or the court orders a judgment. If the EEOC decides not to pursue the charge, an employee may win damages through a private lawsuit. This lawsuit must be filed within a specified period of time.
Types of employment discrimination damages
The specifics of the incident, nature of the violation, and complexity of the case contribute to deciding the type, extent, and amount of damages that can be awarded.
Federal anti-discrimination laws allow for the following damages and remedies:
Hiring, promotion, or reinstatement. May be court-ordered or secured in a settlement.
Back pay. Includes compensation for wages and benefits an employee would have earned from the date of the incident (termination or failure to promote) to the date of the trial or settlement.
Front pay. Includes compensation that would have occurred if there had been no discriminating act. This is generally awarded when reinstatement can't occur because a workplace is too hostile or there is no job available.
Compensatory damages. May include compensation for actual money losses, future money losses, and mental anguish and inconvenience. It is not available in cases of age discrimination.
Punitive damages or liquidated damages. Includes payment to punish an employer for acting out of malice or reckless indifference. It is not available in claims against federal, state, or local governments.
Payment of fees. Includes compensation for attorney and witness fees and court costs.
Anti-discrimination actions. Employer may be required to terminate individual(s) responsible for discrimination, stop specific practices, or make reasonable accommodations in the work environment to prevent future discrimination.