Damages Employees Can Recover for Workplace Discrimination

graphic for the damages that employees can recover for workplace discrimination blog post

Under Illinois and federal law, it is a civil rights violation for your employer to discriminate against you based on your protected characteristics, such as your race, religion, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation, pregnancy, and gender identity), age, or disability.

If you successfully prove discrimination at work, there are several types of monetary awards (known as damages) that you can potentially receive. The purpose of these awards is to help you recover from the losses that you’ve suffered, and to put you in the same, or nearly the same, position that you would have been in if not for your employer’s actions.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages compensate you for the actual economic losses you’ve experienced as a result of your employer’s discrimination. This type of award is typically calculated based on your lost wages, which are derived from your back pay and benefits. Compensatory damages also include compensation for your out-of-pocket medical expenses. Additionally, you may be entitled to front pay to make up for your future lost earnings.

Besides covering economic losses, compensatory damages also cover intangible, non-economic losses such as those caused by pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and inconvenience.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are damages that are aimed at punishing your employer for committing intentional or reckless acts of discrimination against you. They serve as a deterrent to prevent your employer from committing similar acts in the future.

Liquidated Damages

Liquidated damages are damages that are equal to the amount of your back pay. If you assert a federal age discrimination or sex-based wage discrimination claim, then you may be entitled to liquidated damages.

Damage Caps

Under federal discrimination laws—namely, Title VII, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and Pregnancy Discrimination Act—non-economic damages and punitive damages are capped based on the size and financial condition of your employer.

Federal non-economic and punitive damages caps:

  • 15 to 100 employees: $50,000
  • 101 to 200 employees : $100,000
  • 201 to 500 employees: $200,000      
  • 501 or more employees: $300,000

Under Illinois law, front pay and non-economic damages are not capped, while punitive damages are not available at all.

Remedies Chart

StatuteEconomic Damages – Back payEconomic Damages – Front payNon-economic DamagesPunitive DamagesLiquidated Damages
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)RecoverableRecoverableRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyNot recoverable
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)RecoverableRecoverableRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyNot recoverable
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)RecoverableRecoverableRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyRecoverable, but capped based on the size of the companyNot recoverable
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)RecoverableRecoverableNot recoverableNot recoverableRecoverable equal to the amount of lost wages for a willful violation
Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)RecoverableRecoverableNot recoverableRecoverableRecoverable equal to the amount of back pay if the employer did not act in good faith

For more information on available remedies for discrimination claims, please call our office for a free consultation.

Contact us to schedule your FREE consultation.

Lázaro Law Group
321 S. Plymouth Ct Suite 1250,
Chicago, IL 60604

Rafael E. Lazaro
Rated by Super Lawyers


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