Rights of Employees
Employment Law Damages
If 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. 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, a substantial aspect 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 that you experienced up to the date of your trial.Future Lost Wages and Benefits (Front Pay)
In addition to past losses, if you will continue to lose wages and benefits after your lawsuit is over, 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 can be more difficult to prove and quantify these future losses than back pay. Therefore, some courts require testimony from an 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 that you would have found another job if you had made reasonable efforts to find another job, then it can subtract the amount it concludes 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 another form of emotional damages 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
Similar 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. Normally, it 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, even if you have agreed to pay your lawyer a contingency fee. The judge potentially can reduce the amount of the fees you are seeking if he or she determines that some of the time was unnecessary or unreasonable, and increase (or enhance) the fee 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 also can award you 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 to 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 from our New Jersey Employment Law Blog: