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Back pay and other remedies in wrongful termination cases

What do you get if you win a wrongful termination case?  You can get remedies.  Generally speaking, remedies are things that a court, judge, or other decision maker can award the winning party.  Remedies may be monetary, like back pay, or non-monetary, like reinstatement to your job.  Not all remedies are available in all cases.  They depend on many factors, including your location and the law your employer violated.  Finding out which remedies are available can help you decide where to file, what to file, or whether to file at all.  Here’s some basic information about different types of remedies that may be available in wrongful termination cases:

Reinstatement to your job

You may be able to get your job back.  Many people aren’t interested in reinstatement.  They may have a new job or, often, they just don’t want to work for the employer who fired them.  However, you never know if your employment situation will change or if a request for reinstatement may be helpful in settlement negotiations.  And if you don’t request reinstatement in the initial complaint you file in court, you may not be able to add it later on.

Back pay and benefits

Frequently, back pay is the largest component of the award.  Back pay is the difference between what you would have earned if you weren’t fired and any income you received after the firing.  However, calculating back pay isn’t always easy.  And you need evidence.  This may include copies of your tax returns, pay stubs, and documentation of unemployment and any other government benefits you received.  You’ll also need to prove that you tried to find a new job, which is called mitigating your damages.  Evidence of mitigation may include job applications you submitted and correspondence with prospective employers.

You may also recover lost benefits, such as retirement benefits and paid leave based on length of service.

Compensatory damages

Compensatory damages may be awarded for reimbursement of certain out-of-pocket expenses that were caused by the wrongful termination.  You may also seek compensatory damages to compensate you for emotional pain and suffering you experienced because of the wrongful discharge.

Compensatory damages may be limited based on various factors, such as the size of your employer and the type of claim you file.  Say you file a wrongful discharge claim based on race discrimination.  If you sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, compensatory damages limits depend on the size of your employer (e.g., $300,000 for employers with 500+ employees; $50,000 for employers with 15–100 employees).  But if you worked in DC, you could file the same claim under the DC Human Rights Act, which doesn’t limit compensatory damages awards.

Punitive damages

In certain egregious cases, courts can award punitive damages against private-sector employers.  The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the employer, rather than to compensate the employee.  Therefore, you must prove that the employer acted with malice.  Depending on where you worked, there may be limits on punitive damages awards.  For example, in Virginia, punitive damages are limited to $350,000.

Attorney’s fees and costs

You may ask for reimbursement of reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs, such as court costs.

We can help.

Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C., handles wrongful termination cases for federal employees around the world, and for state and local government workers and private-sector employees in Washington, DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia.  Contact us to schedule a consultation.  We will evaluate your case to determine if you have a claim for wrongful termination.

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