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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

5 Types of Damages You Could Win in a Lawsuit

An employee can win a number of different types of damages. Understanding what damages you might be eligible for when you experience sexual harassment or another type of negative employment action can be a different story. Since employers are tasked with creating a safe working environment for employees, the court can decide to force an employer to pay five different types of damages to a wronged employee.

Damages refers to the money the wronged employee receives for their unfortunate experiences. Employees can have very good reasons to file a lawsuit against their employers for claims of sexual harassment, employment discrimination, or wrongful termination. A viable lawsuit then results in the wronged employee receiving what lawyers term “damages.”

5 Types of Damages You Could Win in a Lawsuit

When you are successful in your claim, the court may award you financial compensation based on what you have suffered. Damages try to make up for the wages you may have lost or the emotional distress you experienced, and sometimes, damages are meant to be punishment for the employer’s mishandling of the situation. The law obligates financial compensation to ease the suffering of the employee.

  1. Back Pay

  2. Front Pay

  3. Compensatory

  4. Punitive

  5. Attorney Fees

Back Pay

When you suffered a loss of promotion or termination due to sexual harassment, the court might award you back pay.

According to the law, back pay is the wages you would have earned if you hadn’t suffered the negative employment action. The government only allows an employee to receive back pay for a certain period of time (generally, two years), and it’s best if you have obviously been searching for a job or already found a new one.

shocked woman staring at tablet

The court wants to see that you were trying hard to minimize your financial loss on your own. Always speak to your lawyer if you have questions about your specific situation.

Back Pay Factors

  1. Wages, including raises

  2. Commissions and tips

  3. Health or life insurance

  4. Vacation or sick pay

  5. Retirement plans

  6. Stock options

Front Pay

In some cases, you may have the chance to return to your old position after being terminated or forced to quit. Reinstatement to your old job might cause other problems, though, if the job is unavailable or the working relationship is no longer good. When reinstatement is impossible, the court may award you front pay instead.

Front pay provides money to help you deal with future wage loss from the date of judgment into the future.

Facts Used for Front Pay Determination

  1. Your age

  2. Length of time to find similar job

  3. Time spent at previous job

  4. Average time that employees work similar jobs

A jury uses the above information to determine how much front pay you should receive. They consider how long you would have stayed if not for the harassment and how long it takes to find another similar job. The jury also considers economic points as well. But the court must see that you are trying to find a job.

Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Whether or not you have lost wages, your employer may still be obligated to provide compensatory damages or punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are usually monetary compensation for emotional distress, reputation harm, out-of-pocket costs, medical bills, or job search costs.

Punitive damages are required from employers who have been particularly awful to their employee. This means that someone at management level was aware of the harassment and did nothing to correct the problem.

suited man holding notebook paper asking, "Need a lawyer?"

Federal law limits how much money you can ask for in compensatory and punitive damages. This is based on the size of your employer.

Financial Limits for Compensatory and Punitive Damages

  1. 15-100 employees: limit of $50,000

  2. 101-200 employees: limit of $100,000

  3. 201-500 employees: limit of $200,000

  4. 500+ employees: limit of $300,000

Attorney Fees

When a case is won, attorney fees will be usually paid by the losing party. This also includes filing fees. The court will request a statement from the attorney for the fees to ensure that the attorney fees are reasonable.

When you suffer employment discrimination or sexual harassment, you may have a case under the law. A favorable outcome often includes receiving damages such as listed above. But a lawyer will recognize whether you have a case under the law and what damages you should request.

Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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