What Damages are Available in an Employment Case?

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Damage laws are intended to place the person harmed in as similar of a situation as he or she would have been in had the unlawful employment action not occurred. That is much easier said than done. In employment cases, the types of damages available depend on the nature of the employer’s conduct and the resulting harm to the employee.

Generally, there are three categories of damages that are available to a plaintiff employee in an employment case – economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

Economic damages are those types of damages that can be calculated and include lost wages and other employment benefits. Lost wages from the time of termination up until trial are called back pay. Lost wages from the date of trial into some predetermined date in the future are called front pay. Front pay or future lost wages must be reduced to present value, typically by an economist.

Under current WV law, employees are required to mitigate their damages. That means that a plaintiff employee is required to use his or her best efforts to find comparable employment after being discharged from a job.

Non-economic damages are all those factors that impact you as a person as compared to your pocketbook. They are the intangible, non-monetary damages that have no set method of calculation. The following are all examples of non-economic damages: aggravation, inconvenience, embarrassment, humiliation, indignity, insult, physical and emotional distress, loss of professional reputation, and the loss of the ordinary pleasures of everyday life, including the right to pursue gainful employment of their choice.

Punitive damages are only available under certain limited circumstances. They are intended to punish the wrongdoer and prevent similar conduct from occurring in the future. To recover punitive damages, it must be shown that the employer’s conduct was malicious, done in bad faith, willful, wanton, or reckless.

Damages in employment cases are often difficult to value. Every case is different, and even the smallest detail can have a major impact on the valuation of an employment case.