Compensatory and Punitive Damages for Sexual Harassment:
You may be entitled to a settlement or award of compensatory and punitive damages if your employer is found liable for sexual harassment or retaliation.
Here are the major categories of damages that you may recover:
Back Pay Damages:
“Back pay” is awarded when you have been fired or forced to resign because of sexual harassment. The law allows this as the compensation that you would have been paid if you had not lost your job.
Back pay refers to your total compensation including your salary, bonuses, healthcare benefits, stock options or profit sharing, contributions to retirement plans, vacation pay, and paid time off. As a general rule, you may recover back pay from the time your claim began until the date of the final judgment in the court case.
You are required to “mitigate” your damages by making a good faith effort to look for another job. So please keep a good record of where you look for work. If you fail to look for a new job, you may be denied back pay damages or the amount may be reduced. If you are successful finding a new job, your back pay award is reduced by the compensation you receive in your new job.
Back pay may also be awarded if you were denied a raise or a promotion because of sexual harassment. In that case, you may recover the increase in total compensation that you were denied.
Emotional Distress Damages:
You may be awarded money damages for emotional harms and losses caused by sexual harassment or retaliation.
Emotional distress damages are awarded to compensate you for emotional harms and losses as well as any related physical impacts. These types of harms include:
- Anxiety, depression and panic feelings
- strained relationships with family and friends
- loss of enjoyment of life and mental anguish
- anxiety and difficulty sleeping
- clinical depression
- post- traumatic stress disorder
The amount of damages you may recover for emotional distress depends on the type of evidence you have to support your claim, and the severity of your pain and suffering.
Emotional distress can be shown with your testimony and the testimony of family members, co-workers, and friends. The best witnesses are people who knew you well before and after the sexual harassment.
To recover a large damages award, however, you will need medical evidence. This may be provided by a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor you have consulted for treatment of the emotional distress. Medical evidence of emotional distress may also be provided by an expert witness and your medical records.
Reinstatement or Front Pay Damages:
If you lost your job due to sexual harassment, you may be entitled to be reinstated to the position that you would have held but for the harassment.
In the alternative, you may be awarded “front pay” to compensate you for a reduction or loss of compensation that is expected to continue after the court case is over. Front pay awards are based on an estimate of how long you would have stayed with your employer in the absence of the sexual harassment compared to what you are projected to earn.
Punitive damages may be awarded under certain circumstances to punish your employer and to deter future acts of harassment.
In order to win an award of punitive damages, you must prove that your employer acted with malice or reckless indifference to your rights. This usually requires evidence that your employer was the perpetrator of the sexually harassing conduct, or that your employer was aware of the sexually harassing conduct and did nothing to stop it.
Out-of-Pocket Costs and Reputational Harm
You may recover damages for costs you incurred as a result of sexual harassment such as medical bills for treatment of emotional distress, fees for career counseling, and job search costs. You may also recover damages for harm to your reputation.
Limits on Damages:
Florida limits an award of punitive damages to $100,000. There is no limit under Florida law in the amount of compensatory damages that may be recovered for sexual harassment. Caselaw in Florida holds that unless there is medical evidence of harm, an award of compensatory damages for pain and suffering should not be higher than $20,000-30,000 unless special circumstances are present.
Under federal law, the total amount of compensatory and punitive damages you may recover for sexual harassment depends on the size of your employer. Employers with 15 to 100 employees are not required to pay more than $50,000 in damages. Employers with 500 or more employees are not require to pay more than $300,000. The federal cap on damages does not apply, however, to an award of front pay.
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs:
We represent our clients on a contingency fee basis. You will not owe us any legal fees unless you win. In addition, if the case goes to trial, the court may order your employer to pay the costs of the lawsuit and our legal fees if you win.
Other Claims and Damages:
The damages described above apply to claims for violations of the employment laws. Keep in mind that you may have other claims against your employer or the perpetrator of sexual harassment. Additional claims include assault and battery, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
To discuss all your possible claims and damages, call us at 813-229-8300 to schedule a free and confidential consultation