EMPLOYMENT:Title VII Damages per party or per claim?
The issue as to whether the cap on damages applied per party or per claim was answered in a Fifth Circuit decision in Black v. Pan American Laboratories, LLC, No. 09-51092 (5th Cir. July 11, 2011). The court held that the cap applied per party; a decision that is in line with holdings in the Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuit as well as that of the D.C. Court of Appeals. The reasoning for such a ruling was to prevent “double recovery" in discrimination cases.
The cap for damages is as follows: (1) $50,000 for employers with fewer than 101 employees, (2) $100,000 for employers with fewer than 201 employees, (3) $200,000 for employers with fewer than 501 employees and (4) $300,000 for employers with over 500 employees.
The statutory cap was enacted by Congress in 1991 and can be found at 42 U.S.C. §1891a. The statute based the cap on the number of employees of the defendant employer. This statute overturned more restrictive rulings of the Supreme Court and allowed an employee to recover not only backpay, but compensatory and punitive damages as well.
While the cap seems to benefit employers more so than its employees, it still provides greater damage recovery than was possible prior to the 1991 as an employee can now recover damages for claims such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, and future losses whether pecuniary or non-pecuniary.
As with any rule, there are exceptions.
Please seek professional assistance with any questions or specific situations.
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