What Is The Value Of My Claim For Wrongful Termination Against My Employer In Manhattan?
The value of your claim for wrongful termination against your employer in Manhattan varies depending on the statute or statutes under which you’re suing, among other factors.
Monetary Damages Recoverable For Wrongful Termination — In General
To estimate your economic damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit, you must compute your total annual compensation (including salary, bonus, commissions, and employee benefits) from the job you lost. Unless you retain an expert witness, this computation will likely require you to estimate the value of some of your lost employee benefits, and to make assumptions about future raises, discretionary bonuses, and commissions.
Once you compute your total annual compensation, you should multiply that amount by the number of years you were unemployed and, if applicable, the number of years you reasonably anticipate you will remain out of work.
In making these computations, you must bear in mind your obligation to make all reasonable efforts to mitigate your economic damages by finding another job. You should also account for any likely raises or other changes to your compensation package.
If you’ve already found another job that has equal or higher compensation than the job you lost, then your economic damages cease when you begin that job. Until you obtain such equivalent or higher-paying employment, you must subtract, from your monetary damages, any income that you earned after you were fired, unless you can prove that you would have earned that additional income even if you had not been fired. For example, you need not deduct, from your money damages, income from a second job that you held before you were terminated.
Emotional distress damages can be more challenging to predict than economic damages, because they are unique to the individual. In computing emotional distress damages, a jury does not use any mathematical formula or equation.
Circumstances that would make an emotional distress damages award worth $150,000 or more include a diagnosed medical condition caused by the wrongful termination or workplace harassment, such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or serious personal harm caused by being terminated. Examples of such serious personal harm could include a divorce precipitated by the stress of losing your job, or losing your home because of your loss of earned income.
Punitive damages may be awarded in certain employment law cases to punish your former employer. However, punitive damages are reserved for a relatively small percentage of lawsuits in which the employer’s actions were especially egregious.
In predicting the value of employment lawsuits, it is hard to give too much, if any, importance to punitive damages unless the facts are particularly compelling. That said, when punitive damages are awarded, they can be multiple times higher than your actual damages, subject to constitutional limits.
Punitive damages recoverable, for wrongful discharge, under particular statutes are further discussed below.
If you prevail at trial in most employment discrimination and retaliation cases in Manhattan, your former employer will likely be required to reimburse you for your reasonable attorney’s fees. This computation is based on what you would have paid to your attorney if you had paid by the hour. These legal fees, as well as your out-of-pocket costs and expenses in prosecuting the lawsuit, are part of your potential verdict at trial.
Monetary Damages Recoverable, For Wrongful Termination, Under Particular Statutes
Under the Federal Equal Pay Act (the “EPA”), an employee who establishes a violation can recover unpaid wages as damages, plus an additional amount equal to the amount of unpaid wages as liquidated damages. The amount of unpaid wages is measured in relation to the wages of a comparator — a person of the opposite gender performing work equal to that of the plaintiff.
An employer who violates the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”) is liable to the employee for lost wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation, or any actual monetary losses sustained by the employee as a direct result of the violation. At its discretion, a federal district court may also award front pay. Liquidated damages equal to the amount of lost compensation or actual monetary losses may also be awarded.
The employee must mitigate damages if he or she is fired. Punitive and compensatory damages are not available under the FMLA.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) expressly adapts the remedies that are available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition to actual damages, aggrieved employees may recover, under the ADA, compensatory and punitive damages subject to the following limitations. The total amount of compensatory and punitive damages is capped at various levels depending on the number of employees employed by the employer, as follows:
- more than 14 and fewer than 101 employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year: $50,000;
- more than 100 and fewer than 201 employees: $100,000;
- more than 200 and fewer than 501 employees: $200,000; and
- more than 500 employees: $300,000.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), in addition to actual damages, aggrieved employees may recover compensatory and punitive damages, subject to the caps, on the total amount of compensatory and punitive damages, listed above with regard to the ADA.
To establish a claim of punitive damages, a plaintiff in a Title VII lawsuit must prove that the employer acted intentionally or with reckless indifference to the employee’s federally protected rights; however, the plaintiff need not demonstrate that the employer’s actions were egregious or outrageous.
An employer who violates federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”) may be liable for actual damages, including back pay, lost benefits, and front pay, subject to the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate. Further, in cases of willful violation, liquidated damages equal to the actual damages are available.
Section 1981 of Title 42 of the United States Code (“section 1981”) allows recovery of actual, compensatory, and punitive damages. Under section 1981, compensatory and punitive damages are uncapped, subject to constitutional due process limits.
The Manhattan State Human Rights Law (the “State Human Rights Law” or the “NYSHRL”) allows actual and compensatory damages and counsel fees.
In proceedings before the Manhattan State Division of Human Rights (the “State Division of Human Rights” or the “NYSDHR”), the State Human Rights Law authorizes uncapped awards of punitive damages against private employers, subject to constitutional due process limits. By contrast, in lawsuits brought in federal or state court, the NYSHRL does not permit awards of punitive damages.
The Manhattan City Human Rights Law (the “NYCHRL” or the “City Human Rights Law”) allows actual and compensatory damages and uncapped punitive damages awards, consistent with constitutional due process limits.
Specifically, under the Manhattan City Human Rights Law, a plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages where the wrongdoer’s actions amount to willful or wanton negligence, or recklessness, or where there is a conscious disregard of the rights of others or conduct so reckless as to amount to such disregard.
Although, as stated, the NYCHRL does not impose a cap on punitive damages, the federal cap nonetheless provides guidance on what is considered an appropriate civil penalty for comparable misconduct.
Mitigation Of Damages For Wrongful Discharge – In General
In all cases involving claims for back pay, the court may award back pay subject to the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate. Employers bear the burden of proving that a plaintiff has failed to mitigate his or her damages.
Punitive Damages For Wrongful Discharge – In General
To satisfy due process requirements for an award of punitive damages, the amount must be reasonable and proportional to the wrong committed. In practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive damages and compensatory damages will satisfy due process.
Remedies, Other Than Money, For Unlawful Termination
The remedies available to a plaintiff, who successfully proves a case of discrimination in employment, are not limited to monetary damages. For example, Title VII gives courts broad authority to remedy employment practices that have violated that Act. Courts have ordered injunctive relief, back pay, affirmative relief including promotions and reinstatement, orders directing employers to change or abolish employment practices, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
As stated, prevailing plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases are routinely awarded attorneys’ fees. Even a plaintiff who barely prevails remains entitled to attorneys’ fees, but the court, in its discretion, may reduce their amount.
With regarding to damages for emotional distress, the existence of compensable mental injury may be proven without medical testimony and solely through the plaintiff’s testimony. Although medical testimony is not essential to recover from emotional distress, medical testimony greatly enhances any award for emotional distress in an objective and practical sense.
Interest And Costs
With regard to interest, if your action is brought under Manhattan State or Manhattan City law, the standard interest rate is 9%. When you consider that this amount reflects prejudgment interest and that, unfortunately, it may be several years before you receive a jury verdict, the issue of interest can be significant.
In federal court, post judgment interest is awarded at a rate equal to the weekly average 1-year constant maturity Treasury yield, as published by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, for the calendar week preceding the date of the judgment. By way of example, and from January 1, 2021 through August 6, 2021, this federal post judgment interest rate fluctuated from 4% to 11%.
The Manhattan City Civil Practice Law and Rules (the “N.Y. C.P.L.R.”) provides that a successful plaintiff may recover certain costs.
If you are an executive or a professional in the Manhattan metro area and you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, call Manhattan Wrongful Termination Lawyer David S. Rich at (347) 970-5550 today.
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