While workplace discrimination against applicants and employees based on their protected characteristics has been illegal for decades in the U.S., it continues to be a pervasive issue. Employees in New Jersey and all other states sometimes experience illegal discrimination at their jobs. In some situations, discrimination in the workplace can be so pervasive and severe that an employee will file a discrimination lawsuit to pursue justice for the wrongs they have suffered.
Before employees decide to pursue legal action against their employer, they often question whether doing so will be worthwhile. Employees might worry that filing a lawsuit could be a stressful experience and could result in the loss of their jobs. For these reasons, many employees who have been the victims of unlawful discrimination in the workplace ask about the value of their claims so that they can perform a cost vs. benefit analysis to decide whether to file. Here’s some information about the value of discrimination lawsuits from the employment law firm of Swartz Swidler.
Available Damages in a Discrimination Lawsuit
In a discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff can seek to recover compensation for the damages they have suffered. Damages are the losses people have suffered because of discriminatory acts. While the damages can vary from case to case, the following are common types of damages that might be available:
- Back pay – Any lost wages you suffered from the date of the discrimination until the settlement or verdict
- Front pay – Future wages from the date of the settlement or verdict into the future if you haven’t been able to find a new position at equal or greater pay
- Lost benefits – Compensation for the benefits you lost that came with your position, including medical insurance, life insurance, bonuses, and others
- Attorney’s fees and costs
- Emotional distress – Damages for the emotional injuries you suffered as a result of discrimination
- Punitive damages – Damages that might be awarded in rare cases in which an employer’s actions were outrageous
Settlements vs. Verdicts
Most discrimination lawsuits will reach negotiated settlements long before trial. If you settle, your case will end. This means you won’t have to go to trial. Employers are generally motivated to settle discrimination lawsuits to avoid the risk of high verdict awards, significant expenses to defend against claims, and harm to their business reputations. Employees might also be motivated to settle their claims to avoid a potential loss at trial.
Regardless of whether they are resolved through settlements or verdicts, discrimination lawsuits can be difficult to value. Determining how much a claim might be worth requires a thorough investigation and in-depth analysis of what happened and the particular losses an employee has suffered.
Several factors might influence the compensation that might be available in a discrimination case as discussed below.
1. Type of Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination encompasses a range of various types of discrimination, and different types might have different available damages. For example, disability discrimination lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might be eligible for punitive damages. By contrast, age discrimination lawsuits filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) are not eligible for punitive damages.
2. Size of the Employer
The size of the employer also can influence how much compensation might be recovered in a discrimination lawsuit. Lawsuits against small employers with relatively low annual revenues might result in less compensation than discrimination lawsuits filed against large corporations with substantial annual revenues.
3. Employer’s Tactics
Some employers tend to try to quietly settle claims as quickly as possible. By contrast, others choose to pursue litigation in most discrimination lawsuits. This can influence the potentially available compensation in a lawsuit and the expenses involved in pursuing it to its conclusion.
4. Where the Case Is Filed
The location where a case is filed can also make a difference in the compensation that might be recovered. For example, discrimination lawsuits filed in federal court are subject to damages caps, while those filed in New Jersey state court under state law are not subject to caps on damages. Particular courts might also vary in how they generally approach these types of cases.
Since these factors can vary, it can be hard to determine what an average settlement amount might be for a discrimination lawsuit. However, you should be aware of the following damages caps for discrimination cases pursued under federal law:
- Maximum of $50,000 for lawsuits against employers with 15 to 100 employees
- Maximum of $100,000 for discrimination lawsuits against employers with 101 to 200 employees
- Maximum of $200,000 for lawsuits against employers with 201 to 500 employees
- Maximum of $300,000 for lawsuits against employers with 501 or more employees
These limits place a total cap on the recovery of all types of damages, including both compensatory and punitive damages in federal court. If you are pursuing a federal discrimination claim against your employer, these caps can also affect the amount of compensation you might expect to receive through a settlement.
Get Help From Swartz Swidler
If you are trying to decide whether it’s worthwhile to file a discrimination claim against your employer, schedule a free case evaluation with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can assess your potential claim and help you understand its merits and the remedies that might be available. Call us at (856) 685-7420 to request a consultation.