An employment lawsuit in California typically stems from a dispute that arises between an employer and an employee. This could be over harassment or discrimination in the workplace, a dispute over wages, retaliatory action or wrongful termination. The types of monetary damages you receive in an employment lawsuit would largely depend on the legal basis for your lawsuit and the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Types of Monetary Damages in an Employment Lawsuit
Here are types of monetary damages a plaintiff in an employment lawsuit may receive if he or she is successful in proving the case.
Lost Wages and Benefits
This is the most basic form of damages in California employment cases. When the plaintiff is able to provide evidence of discrimination, harassment, failure on the part of the employer to pay fair wages or proof of wrongful or illegal termination, he or she may be able to recover monetary damages for lost wages and benefits.
This amount is essentially based on the value of wages or salary and the value of any benefits that were provided by the employer such as health insurance, pensions, stock options, etc. In a wrongful termination case, for example, such compensation should include wages and benefits an employee would have earned from their employer starting from the date of the wrongful termination up until the date of the court verdict or settlement.
Employees will also be eligible to receive the value of wages and benefits they would have received from the employer starting from the date of the verdict or settlement and continuing for as long as their job would have reasonably been expected to continue. This is also known as "future lost wages." In addition, an employee would be able to receive the value of any other contract damages caused by the employer's behavior.
These values, especially the value of future wages, can be challenging to calculate because it can be difficult, for example, to predict for how long the employee may have continued to work for the employer had she or he not been wrongfully terminated. Typically, these calculations are made using the employee's age, work performance and future goals.
Understanding Mitigation of Damages
In an employment lawsuit, mitigation of damages basically means looking for a taking up alternative employment in order to make up some if not all of the losses caused by wrongful termination. In a wrongful termination lawsuit where the plaintiff is requesting compensation for lost wages and benefits, it is highly likely that the court will look at the extent to which the employee was able to mitigate damages. So, if you receive damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit, it will likely be reduced by the amount that you earned or could have earned in a job that was significantly similar to the one you lost. But the damages in a wrongful termination case will only be reduced if your employer can prove that you obtained employment that was substantially similar to your former job; that you did not make reasonable attempts to find and retain such employment; an the amount of money you earned from such employment. The employer also has a burden in such cases to make the case for a mitigation of damages requirement. As the plaintiff you do not have to prove that you were not able to mitigate damages.
So, how does one show that a given job is substantially similar to your old job or the one you lost? Some key factors include the nature of work involved; if the new job has similar duties as the previous one; the salary and benefits offered by the new job; the skills, background and experience required by the new job; and whether the new job is in the same geographical area.
Non-economic Damages in Employment Lawsuits
When a person is illegally terminated from his or her job, he or she does not only suffer monetary damages such as lost wages, but also non-economic damages that might follow him or her for a long time. The most common forms of non-economic damages claimed by plaintiffs in employment lawsuits include damages for emotional distress or mental suffering and damage to one's professional reputation. You may also be able to receive damages for health symptoms or mental suffering or stress caused by your wrongful termination or your employer's alleged harassment or discrimination.
Attorney's Fees and Costs
In some California employment cases, plaintiffs who are successful may also be able to recoup attorney's fees and other costs of litigation such as court fees, filing fees and cost of expert witnesses. Most plaintiffs in California must pay attorney's fees and costs of litigation out of the damages or settlement they receive from the defendant. But, employees who file a lawsuit against their employers are able to collect attorney's fees and litigation costs under certain circumstances.
For example, an employee may be able to receive attorney's fees when he or she has been filed for opposing sexual harassment or discrimination. Other examples of when employees may be able to receive attorney's fees include when they have been wrongfully fired for reporting wage and hour violations or because they reported safety violations in the workplace.
Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages because the sole intention of awarding these damages is to punish the employer for committing an egregiously wrongful act. For an employee to receive punitive damages, the actions of an employer must rise to the level of "oppression, fraud or malice." Punitive damages are also meant to set an example and to deter other companies from committing such egregious acts.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been mistreated or unlawfully terminated from work, it is important that you fully understand your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to significant compensation depending on the nature and circumstances of your case. Employers and corporations typically have a team of lawyers looking out for their best interests. You need a strong advocate on your side with thorough knowledge of California employment law and significant experience handling these types of cases. Call our knowledgeable Los Angeles employment attorneys at 888-500-8469 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.