What is my employment discrimination case worth?

What is my employment discrimination case worth?

There are two parts to every case - liability and damages.  Liability is the hard part.  Demonstrating liability, in the employment discrimination context, means proving that the employer discriminated against the employee.  If an employee can do this, then the next question is, what is the employment discrimination case worth?  Figuring out what an employment discrimination case is worth is actually fairly simple.

There are many remedies available to the employee in a successful employment discrimination or sexual harassment case. Below, we outline a few:

  1. Injunctions - these are court orders which prohibit further acts of discrimination and, sometimes, require reinstatement of employment and money damages.
  2. Compensatory damages - damages to "compensate" the employee for the illegal act(s) of the employer.  Compensatory damages consist of:
    • Back pay - payment of lost wages and benefits from the date of the adverse employment action (i.e. firing) until the date of trial or settlement.
    • Front pay - payment of lost wages carried into the future from the date of trial .
      • Note that an employee has a duty to"mitigate" or reduce his or her damages by finding another job or otherwise replacing lost income.  An employee who fails to mitigate his or her damages may have their recovery reduced.
  3. Punitive damages - these are rarely awarded, but are additional damages intended to punish the employer for egregious wrongdoing.
  4. Attorneys' fees and costs - a prevailing plaintiff in an employment discrimination or harassment case is also entitled to attorneys' fees and costs (even if that employee is represented on a contingency fee basis).

What is my employment discrimination case worth - sample calculation:

Let's assume that we an show that an employer discriminated against an employee in making the decision to terminate that employee.  Now that we've established liability, let's calculate damages.   For a discussion on how employment discrimination lawsuits work, please read this article.

If the employee was making $100,000 per year, and - despite his or her best efforts was unable to find a new job for one year.  One year after termination, he/she wins at trial. How much has he/she lost?

(If you can't do the math on this, you should brush up on your math skills).

Answer, $100K.

But we're not done.  Don't forget about front pay...

Let's assume that a jury determines that it will take the employee another 6 months to find comparable employment.

Now the damages are up to $150K.

We're still not done ... now let's add in attorneys' fees.  These are calculated based on a "lodestar."  A lodestar is a fancy term that courts use to describe this formula:  your attorney's hours multiplied by that attorney's normal hourly rate.  So add that in too. And costs- litigation is not cheap.

In most cases, that's it.  So if you are following along, that is $150K plus attorneys' fees and costs.  In some cases, however, where the employer's conduct is especially egregious, a jury may also award punitive damages.  These are rare, but may also be thrown into the mix to determine what an employment discrimination case is worth.

Ultimately, though, figuring out the value of a case is difficult and requires some degree of expertise.  Questions?  Contact us - we can help!