In a recent employment discrimination case, a federal district court jury in New Hampshire ordered Walmart to pay a whopping $31.2 million to a female pharmacist for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as well as gender discrimination, employment retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of New Hampshire state law. By all appearances, it seems that Maureen McPadden, the plaintiff in McPadden v. Walmart, will soon become a millionaire many times over. But wait for the other shoe to drop.
In employment discrimination verdicts, initial appearances are often not the final reality, for many reasons. The first reason is because Title VII limits compensatory and punitive damage awards to a maximum of $300,000; even less for smaller employers.
Judges have discretion to reduce a jury’s damage award if they feel that the awards are excessive or unjustified, based on the evidence and circumstances. As expected, Walmart said it will appeal the verdict and damage award. Because of the Title VII caps, Walmart will likely succeed in having the award reduced. But, how much will McPadden ultimately put in her pocket at the end of the legal proceedings?
Deciding which employee discrimination claims to bring under federal and state law, proving those claims to the jury, convincing the jury to allocate the maximum amount of damages under each award category, and convincing the judge to uphold the jury’s awards, requires the skills of a highly-qualified and experienced employee rights attorney. The employment law attorneys at Kilgore & Kilgore have a track record of bringing and winning employment discrimination cases. Contact us today by phone at (214) 969-9099 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free review of the facts of your case with an employment law attorney.
The most important factor in how much McPadden receives at the end of the day may involve the quality of her legal representation. Maximizing ultimate damage awards requires effectively presenting, proving and capitalizing on all of the different types of damages available under the various employment discrimination laws such as Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Sections 1981 and 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Plus, this requires addressing whatever state employee discrimination rights laws apply. Then the judge must be convinced to uphold such awards, subject to statutory caps, based on the evidence and circumstances of the case. All of this is extremely complex and requires skilled, experienced employment discrimination attorneys. Without an experienced employment law attorney, you may leave thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars on the table that you might otherwise have received.
Here is an overview of the common forms of damage awards you may be able to obtain in an employee discrimination claim. Let’s take a look at how the jury allocated McPadden’s $31.2 million award. The jury awarded her $164,093 in back pay, $558,392 in front pay, $500,000 in compensatory damages, $15 million in punitive damages for gender discrimination in violation of Title VII and $15 million in enhanced compensatory damages for gender discrimination in violation of New Hampshire state law.
The judge on appeal will most likely cut the $15.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII down to the $300,000 cap. The jury is not told about this cap before making its award. Then, the judge will review the rest of the damage awards to determine whether or not they are reasonable based on the evidence and circumstances. It will take a very good employment discrimination lawyer to convince the judge to uphold these awards as granted by the jury, to not have them reduced.
Under Title VII, back pay includes wages, the value of lost benefits, vacation time, bonuses, etc., for two years before the case is filed and up until the time of judgment. Back pay is not included under the Title VII damage cap, but you do have a duty to mitigate those damages by using reasonable diligence to find a substantially similar job.
Front pay compensates for the future effects of employment discrimination when reinstatement is not feasible, including the lost wages, benefits, bonuses, etc., during the time it takes to find a new job, as well as any pay disparity involved in changing jobs. Once again, this is not subject to the cap, but you do have a duty to mitigate.
In order to receive compensatory damages, you must submit proof of actual non-economic injuries, such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, or harm to reputation, caused by your employer’s unlawful conduct.
Punitive damages may be awarded if your employer acted with malice, willfulness or reckless disregard for your federally protected rights. These are not automatic, even when intentional employment discrimination is proven. The court considers a slew of factors in deciding if punitive damages are reasonable at all, and if they are, for how much.
Attorney’s fees can also be awarded to you if you prevail in the case. One way to avoid the Title VII damage caps is to file and win a claim under Section 1981 or 1983, which have a higher burden of proof, but are not subject to the caps. Regardless, however, your award will always face judicial review for excessiveness and reasonableness based on the circumstances and evidence.
As you can begin to see, deciding which employment discrimination claims to bring under federal and state law, proving those claims and convincing the jury to allocate the maximum amount of damages under each award category is a complex challenge. Then, convincing the judge to uphold the jury’s awards requires the skills of a seasoned employment discrimination attorney.
Kilgore & Kilgore has employment attorneys with exactly the type of skills and experience required to give you the best chance to win your employment discrimination claim and maximize your award. To learn more about Kilgore & Kilgore’s employment discrimination law practice, click here Employment Discrimination Law Practice. You can contact Kilgore & Kilgore through our website, click here Contact Kilgore & Kilgore. We offer a free review of the facts of your case with an employment discrimination attorney. Or, just call us at (214) 969-9099.
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