Employment Law Damages

Damages in Employment Law Cases

Employment Law DamagesIf you win your case, you are entitled to be compensated for the losses you experienced as a result of your employer’s unlawful actions. The damages available vary between different laws. Provided below is a description of some of the most common types of damages in employment law cases in New Jersey and New York.

Past Lost Wages and Benefits (Back Pay)

Often the most important part of your damages is your past lost salary and benefits. These “back pay” damages should reflect the amount of money you lost as a result of wrongful termination, resignation, demotion or other adverse employment action you experienced up to the date of the trial.

Future Lost Wages and Benefits (Front Pay)

In addition to past losses, if you will continue to lose wages and benefits after the lawsuit is finalized, you could be compensated for those damages. This includes situations in which you still are unemployed at the time of the trial or you are earning less than you were before you were wrongfully discharged. This category of damages is called “front pay.” It is usually more difficult to prove and quantify these future losses than back pay. Therefore, some courts require testimony from employability or another expert witness before they permit an award for front pay.

Mitigation of Damages

If you found another job, your economic damages will be reduced by the amount you actually earned. Even if you did not find another job, if a judge or jury concludes you should have found another job if you had made reasonable efforts to find another job, it can subtract the amount it finds you should have earned.

This requirement to try to replace your lost salary and benefits is called the “mitigation of damages.” For more information, please read our article: Mitigation of Damages: Employees Bringing Wrongful Termination Claims Must Make Reasonable Efforts to Find Another Job.

Emotional Distress Damages

In addition to lost salary and benefits, most employees who face discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work experience anxiety, depression or other emotional harm as a result. Emotional distress damages are intended to compensate you for this harm. The amount a jury will award for your emotional distress can vary greatly based on a variety of factors, including how severe your symptoms are and how long they lasted.

Physical Distress Damages

Similarly to emotional distress damages, physical distress damages are intended to compensate you for any physical pain and suffering your employer’s violation of the law has caused you to suffer. It can include damages for any physical impairment, pain or other medical conditions caused or made worse by the discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Other Compensatory Damages

You also may be able to recover other damages caused by your employer’s unlawful actions if you win your employment lawsuit in either New Jersey or New York. For example, you could be awarded damages for any out-of-pocket medical expenses or the cost of receiving psychotherapy or other treatment for your emotional or physical distress.

Attorney’s Fees and Litigation Expenses

Most employment laws in New York and New Jersey require employers to pay your attorney’s fees and legal costs if you win your case. The amount of the attorney’s fee is calculated by the judge. It normally is based on how many hours your lawyer spent working on your case times the reasonable hourly rate your lawyer charges clients who pay by the hour. Typically, the judge can reduce the amount if it is too high, or increase it to offset some of the risk your lawyer took if he or she represented you on a contingency fee basis.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, the judge or jury can also award punitive damages. Generally, punitive damages in employment law cases are awarded only if there was an especially egregious violation of law by a member of your company’s upper management. Punitive damages are intended to punish the employer and deter similar conduct in the future. Although punitive damages are not intended to compensate you for what you experienced, you would receive them if they are awarded.

Liquidated Damages

Instead of permitting punitive damages, some employment laws permit liquidated damages. For example, under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), an employee who proves his or her employer intentionally violated the law can receive liquidated damages equal to his or her lost wages. In other words, you potentially can receive double your economic damages under those laws.

Other Remedies

There are also non-economic remedies that can be awarded in employment law case. Please read our Employment Law Remedies page for more information.

Additional Information

For more information about damages in employment law cases, we invite you to read the following articles: