How much is an employment discrimination lawsuit worth? As Long Island employment lawyers, this is a frequent question we hear from victims of unlawful workplace discrimination in New York. Victims of discrimination may be able to recover several categories of damages which comprise the total amount that an employment discrimination lawsuit may be worth. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the damages available to discrimination victims.
Before even getting to the question of damages, plaintiffs must always first prove liability. This means that an employment discrimination plaintiff must first prove that the employer in fact engaged in unlawful discrimination or retaliation. We often describe this step by analogizing it to baking. In a lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove certain elements. Elements are like ingredients. If, for example, we were baking a cake, we need, for simplicity purposes, four ingredients: (1) flour, (2) sugar, (3) butter, and (4) eggs. If we did not have one of these ingredients, we may make something resembling a cake, but it would not be a cake.
Similarly, in the world of employment discrimination, a plaintiff must prove four “elements” or “ingredients” to win the liability part of his or her lawsuit. In short, those elements are: (1) membership in a protected class (such as race, religion, disability, etc.), (2) being qualified for the job; (3) an adverse action (meaning something legally “bad” happened such as being fired); and (4) causation – a showing that the bad thing happened because the employee belongs to a protected class. If the plaintiff does not prove one of these elements, then the “cake” won’t reason, i.e. the plaintiff cannot prove the case and will not be entitled to any damages whatsoever.