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What Damages are Available in an Employment Discrimination Case?

By Thomas McKinney

Have you suffered an adverse employment action as a result of discrimination? In other words, have you missed out on a job advancement opportunity, been fired, or had to endure some other injustice regarding your job because you have been discriminated against due to your race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or genetic information? If so, you can bring a civil action known as an employment discrimination lawsuit seeking compensation, or “damages,” for the harm you have suffered by the defendant, who is most likely going to be your employer or former employer. The goal in an employment discrimination case is to put the plaintiff back in the position he or she would have been had the adverse action never occurred. This is usually done by giving the plaintiff money, although it can also involve getting the employee’s job back and ordering the employer to undo the discriminatory act or policy that led to the harm suffered by the plaintiff.

What Damages are Available in an Employment Discrimination Case?

The bulk of the damages that are available in an employment discrimination case will be compensatory damages. These are the expenses incurred by the plaintiff due to the discrimination. Again, compensatory damages are intended to put the plaintiff back in the position they would have been in had the discrimination never have occurred. So, you may be running through what kind of things are included in compensatory damages. Well, compensatory damages in employment discrimination cases often include:

  • Back pay: This refers to the earnings the employee lost out on as of the date of the discriminatory action.
  • Front pay: This refers to the future compensation the employee will miss out on due to the discrimination. Front pay will often come into play when an employee will be unemployed for a certain period of time, while looking for a job, for example, due to the discrimination. 
  • Loss of benefits: When you lose a job, you are not just losing out on a salary or wages, you may also be missing out on critical benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings, and more. Lost benefits can be a big part of compensatory damages, but they may also be difficult to quantify and may necessitate the hiring of an expert witness to testify to such losses at trial.
  • Pain and suffering: Also referred to as “emotional distress,” pain and suffering damages stem from the mental or emotional harm suffered as a result of the employment discrimination. While also very real and a potentially significant chunk of compensatory damages, emotional distress can be difficult to quantify. A mental health professional may need to testify as to the harm you suffered and the amount ultimately award for your pain and suffering will be left up to the jury to decide.

In addition to compensatory damages, punitive damages may be awarded in more limited cases. These are damages that, rather than seek to compensate the plaintiff, are intended to punish the defendant for egregious wrongdoing. Punitive damages can be rare and may not be available in some cases.

New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys

If you have suffered employment discrimination, get the team at Castronovo & McKinney by your side. We will fight to help you get fairly compensated for the harm you have suffered. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.