What are you entitled to if you prevail in a lawsuit for discrimination? New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination allows a prevailing Plaintiff to potentially receive compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs of suit and attorneys’ fees. All of these damages are determined by a jury upon a verdict in the Plaintiff’s favor.
Compensatory damages are intended to make the Plaintiff “whole” for their loss. Compensatory damages include back pay, front pay, emotional distress damages.
Back pay is the amount of wages, benefits, bonus and commissions lost as a result of the discrimination by the employer. The amount of Back pay is subtracted by the amount of compensation the Plaintiff received after being terminated by the employer. This is referred to as “mitigation” and a Plaintiff is required to try and mitigate any damages pursuant to the Law Against Discrimination. The amount of back pay is determined by calculating the date of the termination of employment until the date of the court’s ruling in Plaintiff’s favor.
Front pay is the amount required to cover the difference in compensation the employee could have earned in the future (i.e. making $100,000 at old job and new job only pays $75,000 – the front pay would be $25,000 per year subject to mitigation efforts). The amount of front pay depends on how long the court believes it will take the employee to return to the amount of compensation from the discriminating employer. Front pay will also include any benefits that have been lost.
Emotional Distress damages are to compensate the Plaintiff for the distress caused by the employer discriminating against the Plaintiff and the loss of the job. The amount of emotional distress is determined by the court and varies for each case. Emotional distress damages are very hard to predict and could range from zero dollars to more than $500,000 depending on the case.
Punitive damages are awarded in lawsuits involving the malicious wrongdoing by the discriminating employer. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish or deter the employer or others from ever discriminating again. In order to receive punitive damages, the court must rule that the employer either intentionally discriminated with malice against the Plaintiff or demonstrated a reckless indifference to the discrimination.
A prevailing Plaintiff is entitled to the reimbursement of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The employer is required to pay these fees. In most employment cases, Plaintiff’s lawyers handle the case on a contingent fee basis. Therefore, the Plaintiff is never actually billed for the time spent by the attorneys. However, the attorneys keep track of their time and the time is then billed to the employer if the Plaintiff prevails at court.
Please contact us if you have any questions regarding a NJ discrimination case and the potential damages in a New Jersey Discrimination lawsuit.
March 12, 2010 – Tom McKinney – Castronovo & McKinney – New Jersey Discrimination Attorneys