Labor and Employment

What Types of Monetary Damages Can I Recover for Discrimination or Harassment?

By Sachi Barreiro, Attorney, University of San Francisco School of Law

If you win your discrimination or harassment case, you can ask the court to reinstate you to your old job or require your employer to give you a promotion or a new job. However, often times, this is not a practical solution. Discrimination and harassment lawsuits can take months or even years to resolve. Many employees have already moved on to different jobs, or the lawsuit has damaged the working relationship beyond repair.

It’s more common for employees to receive money damages for their losses, which may include:

  • lost wages (if you were fired and couldn’t find a job that paid the same, for example)
  • costs of searching for a new job (such as print out resumes, seeking out job placement services, etc.)
  • payment of medical bills (for example, if the harassment was so severe you needed counseling)
  • the emotional harm caused by the discrimination or harassment , and
  • punitive damages (to punish employers for especially bad conduct).

However, federal law places limits on how much you can receive in compensatory and punitive damages. With the exception of lost wages, the most you can receive in compensatory and punitive damages is as follows:

  • $50,000 for employers with 15 to 100 employees
  • $100,000 for employers with 101 to 200 employees
  • $200,000 for employers with 201 to 500 employees, and
  • $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees.

If your state’s antidiscrimination law does not have a cap, you might be able to recover the full value of your damages under state law.

Go to the main employment discrimination FAQ for employees page.

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