Our firm usually handles discrimination or retaliation claims on a contingent basis. That means that there is no legal fee to a client unless and until a monetary recovery is made. The legal fee is based on a percentage of the final recovery. If the matter goes all the way to trial, which is very rare, the Court can award attorney’s fees and order the defendant to pay them, in which case the client retains all of their jury award.
Putting a value on how much a case is worth is complicated and imprecise. As with some other civil cases, such as car accidents, the amount of recovery is going to depend upon the damage suffered as a result of the unlawful employment action. There are many factors involved in estimating the value of a case. In the event that a plaintiff (the employee) is successful, the defendant (the employer) must pay compensatory damages to compensate the employee for damages suffered due to lost wages, future damages, emotional distress and pain and suffering. In cases where the employer’s actions are shocking and egregious, the jury also may be permitted to award punitive damages. Under New Jersey anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation law, the employer also may be ordered to pay additional damages to compensate the plaintiff’s attorney.
The easiest type of damages to calculate is economic damages. In a wrongful termination case, the damages are the amount of money that you would have earned if you had not been terminated minus the actual amount of money that you have earned from new employment since being terminated. Plaintiffs are required to make a good faith attempt to become re-employed, and the jury is permitted to reduce damages if they determine that a good faith effort to obtain new employment has not been made. Nevertheless, usually economic damages can be calculated and a plaintiff who wins a wrongful termination case can usually expect to recover at least the economic damages lost as a result.
Emotional distress damages are much harder to predict. A jury is permitted to award compensation for the emotional distress that an employee has suffered as a result of intentional discrimination. Although it is not necessary to have undergone treatment with a mental health or medical professional, it is always advisable that if a person believes that he or she has suffered a mental or emotional injury, that treatment should be sought - if not for purposes of gaining compensation, at least for the purposes of recovering and moving being able to move on with life. A jury may not be instructed regarding the value of an emotional distress award. For that reason, emotional distress awards vary wildly, from $0 to upwards of $1 million. However, if a judge thinks that the jury verdict is unreasonably low or high, the judge has the right to adjust the verdict.
Punitive damages are even more speculative. These damages are only awarded in cases where the actions are malicious and especially egregious. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and to deter future conduct. Punitive damages must be related to the compensatory damages and are usually a multiple between 1 and 5 times the compensatory damages. Punitive damages must also be related to the defendant’s wealth and ability to pay. Punitive damages may also range from $0 to millions, subject to court adjustment. If you believe you have an employment law case you can contact Schorr & Associates.