Many employers and employees do not understand the types of damages or remedies that are available for employment discrimination claims (“ED claims”). ED claims are different from ordinary contract or tort claims in that they do not provide the typical compensatory damages.
For example, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), compensatory damages are not available, unless there is a retaliation claim. Pfeifer v. Essex Wire Corp., 682 F.2d 684, 685-688 (7th Cir. 1982) and Moskowitz v. Trustees of Purdue Univ., 5 F.3d 279, 283-84, (7th Cir. 1993). However, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees that are able to establish discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or sexual harassment may recover compensatory damages in the form of back pay, front pay and lost future earnings. Pals v. Schpel Buick & GMC Truck, Inc., 220 F.3d 495, 499-501, (7th Cir. 2000) and Hildenbrandt v. Illinois Dep’t of Natural Resources, 347 F.3d 1014, 1031 (7th Cir. 2003).
However, back pay, front pay and lost future earnings are equitable remedies that are determined by a judge, instead of a jury. Pals, 220 F.3d 495, 499-501, (7th Cir. 2000) and Hildenbrandt, 347 F.3d 1014, 1031 (7th Cir. 2003). Moreover, front pay and lost future earnings are different, because lost future earnings compensate employees for diminishment in future earnings based on an injury to their reputation instead of future salary or wages they could have obtained from the discriminatory employer. Williams v. Pharmacia Inc., 137 F.3d 944, 953-54, (7th Cir. 1998).
In addition, there are caps on damage awards and employees have a duty to mitigate their damages. Understanding the types of remedies and how they are awarded is crucial to litigating and negotiating ED claims. If you have any concerns or questions regarding litigating or negotiating employment ED claims, then please feel free to contact us.