Navigating Employment Discrimination Cases: Legal Insights

How is the Value of an Employment Discrimination Case Determined?

When considering the dynamics of an employment discrimination case, you may wonder how the value is determined. How much can you expect to be awarded if the case is successful? How do lawyers determine the potential awards or damages to request when a case reaches court?

Employment discrimination cases are unique; each one may contain specific nuances that cause values to vary. It is never certain that the value of your case will be higher or lower than comparable cases. However, there are a few useful factors and criteria to help determine how much a case could be worth. First, a few definitions might help.

Defining the Value of an Employment Discrimination Case

Each employment discrimination case involves a category of remedy termed equitable relief. The meaning of equitable relief centers on fairness to the offended party. In other words, equitable relief aims to put an aggrieved employee back in the position he or she would have been in had the employee not experience discrimination.

This could mean monetary remedies are awarded which compensate the employee for back pay, or in some instances, front pay. It could also mean that the employee is not awarded any monetary figure at all; rather, the employee is reinstated back to the position he or she lost as a result of the violation of employment discrimination law.

Beyond Equitable Relief

Beyond equitable relief, other types of damages could be awarded. For example, in some cases, there are punitive damages. These types of damages depend heavily on the motives of the employer in an employment discrimination case. Specifically, if the employer willfully violated the law, such acts could result in punitive damages.

Another type of damage beyond equitable relief is compensatory damages. Compensatory damages involved compensating an employee for losses or suffering that come as a direct result of discriminatory events. These types of damages can be awarded for emotional distress or for what is known as pecuniary losses.

Pecuniary losses include compensation for out-of-pocket expenses such as moving expenses, job search expenses and physical therapy expenses. These can cover out-of-pocket expenses that occur prior to the case or that are likely to result as part of a case or after the conclusion of litigation. Typically, records or documents which can quantify such losses, such as receipts, invoices or medical records, are necessary.

Other types of compensatory damages are available for the intangible effects of an employment discrimination case. These effects can range from emotional distress and mental anguish to a loss in professional standing or injury to reputation or credit standing.

It’s important to keep in mind that this type of remedy is not always available under Title VII, but it can be awarded according to the nature and severity of the circumstances. Also, compensatory damages are limited at the federal level based on statutory caps noted in employment discrimination laws.

Finally, an employee could be entitled to attorney’s fees as part of an employment discrimination case. This remedy automatically kicks in under some employment discrimination laws and must be specifically requested in others.

Factors Affecting the Value of Employment Discrimination Case

Employment discrimination cases cover a wide variety of situations. Discrimination based on color, race, national origin, age, religion, sex, and disability are the major categories covered, but beyond discrimination a case may also involve violations of labor laws or even laws specifically dealing with federal employment.

That being said, a number of factors can affect the value of an employment discrimination case. These include the size of the employer, the type of case and the motives of the employer, and the employee’s duty to mitigate harm.

Type of Employment Discrimination Case and Motives of the Employer

Employment discrimination law is diverse. However, a relatively small set of laws deal with the topic. In each statute, specifications regarding the awards and damages possibles are present. The specifications depend on the type of case involved, which in turn can depend on the motives of the employer in a case.

Specifically, an important distinction is whether or not the case involves intentional discrimination or discrimination with mixed motives. When the discrimination is intentional and the employer is not able to successfully assert there were other motives involved beyond discrimination, equitable relief, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees are available.

However, sometimes an employer is successfully able to prove that mixed motives were involved. This means that although there was discrimination present, motives other than discrimination, such as legitimate business reasons, were responsible for the employer’s behavior. In instances, where the employer is able to successfully show mixed motives, only declaratory relief and attorney’s fees may be available to the employee.

Duty to Mitigate Losses in an Employment Discrimination Case

In every employment discrimination case, an employee has a duty to mitigate losses. In most cases, this means that when an employee loses his or her job due to discrimination, losses that result from the termination which could have been lessened by the employee will not be attributed to the employer.

For example, if an employee is capable of working but fails to look for new work after being terminated due to discrimination, he may not be entitled to the full amount of damages necessary to remedy his lack of income.

In an employment discrimination case, it is up to the employer to prove that an employee did not practice reasonable diligence in an effort to mitigate his or her damages. If the employer succeeds, the employee may not receive damages for harm that could have been avoided.

One Final Factor Affecting the Value of an Employment Discrimination Case

One final factor affecting the value of an employment discrimination case is perhaps the most important – the experience and expertise of an a qualified attorney. Not only will you need a qualified attorney to handle your case, you’ll need someone who has litigated cases long enough to be deeply familiar with the wisest methods to determine the value of your case for the best results possible.

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.