Discrimination Remedies

The remedies – that is, what a judge or jury can decide to award to a prevailing plaintiff – are the same in employment discrimination cases under federal and state law, with several critical differences. In general, those remedies are:

  Federal State
Reinstatement X X
Back pay X X
Back benefits X X
Front pay X X
Front benefits X X
Compensatory damages X X
Punitive damages X X
Attorney fees X X

However, neither compensatory nor punitive damages are available for age discrimination or age-based retaliation. Instead, a prevailing plaintiff in such a case can recover liquidated damages for willful discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages generally is equal to the amount of damages for back pay and back benefits.

“Back pay” is the amount of money the plaintiff lost in compensation from the date of the unlawful employment action to the date of trial. Damages for “back benefits” are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the value of lost past fringe benefits. Any money and/or fringe benefits that the plaintiff earned/received or that, with the exercise of reasonable diligence, could have earned/received must be deducted in calculating back pay and back benefits.

“Front pay” and “front benefits” may be available to compensate the plaintiff for future lost compensation and/or fringe benefits. As a general rule, they can be awarded only when reinstatement is not practical. The same rules on deductions for compensation and fringe benefits from other employment that apply to back pay/back benefits also apply to front pay/front benefits.

The amount of compensatory and punitive damages that potentially can be recovered, other than in age discrimination cases, depends on the size of the employer. The caps for compensatory and punitive damages, combined, are as follows:

  Federal State
1-4 employees Not covered $10,000
5-14 employees Not covered $25,000
15-100 employees $50,000 $50,000
101-200 employees $100,000 $100,000
201-500 employees $200,000 $200,000
501 or more employees $300,000 $300,000

Punitive damages cannot be recovered against government entities.