Victims of disability discrimination are generally able to recover damages based on three categories:
1) compensatory damages
2) injunctive and affirmative relief
3) and punitive damages
In this blog, we will look at what it takes to obtain damages in a disability discrimination case and examples of the types of damages a disabled worker who makes a claim may receive.
Proving Disability Discrimination In the Workplace
Not all disabilities qualify under disability discrimination law. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (along with its amendments in the ADA Amendments Act) govern qualifying disabilities. In order for the ADA to apply, a disability must be:
1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or
2) a record of such an impairment, or
3) the employer’s belief that such an impairment exist (the so-called “regarded as” disabled element)
It’s an employee’s responsibility to prove that each of these three elements are in place in order to establish a disability discrimination claim. These requirements must be met in order for the case to move forward, even when a charge of disability discrimination is filed with the EEOC,
Employees may also bring claims of retaliation or harassment based on their disability, and an employee may bring an action if their employer fails to provide reasonable accommodations for the disability if the employer fails to do so. Each of these rights are protected under federal law and state law for businesses although the requirements are different in each situation.
Can An Employer Be Held Vicariously Liable for Its Employee’s Actions?
In order for a claim to be successful and damages to be recovered in a disability discrimination case, an employee must show that the actions of the managers, supervisors, co-workers or staff accused can and will be attributed to the company. This means that there must be a showing that the company had direct authority and control over the accused employee or that the accused employee believed they had this power (control or authority) in order for the Courts to place liability on the employer.
An Employer’s Defense Can Prevent Recovery for the Employee In Certain Situations
The objective in awarding damages in discrimination cases is to put the victim (employee) back in the position he or she would have been in had the discrimination not occurred.
An employer’s defenses to a disability discrimination claim are important even for a discussion of remedies that may be available to the employee. For example, in a case involving a disabled employee’s request for reasonable accommodations, if an employer can prove that it engaged in good faith efforts to consult with the employee regarding the disability, the employee may not be able to recover compensatory or punitive damages. However, other non-compensatory and non-punitive remedies are still available which can include backpay and reinstatement.
Remedies Available to Disability Discrimination Victims
Employees who successfully file and prevail on a disability discrimination claim may have several remedies available to them including:
1) back pay
2) front pay
3) attorney’s fees and costs
5) affirmative relief like reinstatement.
It’s important to remember that almost all disability discrimination remedies are determined by the employee’s ability to show that the discrimination caused specific losses (damages) to the employee. For instance, to recover back pay or fringe benefits the employee must show that the loss of such compensation is a direct result of the discriminatory acts alleged in a disability discrimination claim.
As part of the potential injunctive relief, the employer may be required to put a stop to specific, unlawful employment practices or policies, even while the case proceeds to court.
“Make Whole Remedies”
Relief may also include reinstating a terminated or demoted disabled employee or placing that employee back in the position they were in or were meant to be in prior to the discrimination.
Compensatory Damages in a Disability Discrimination Case:
Expenses that are “out of pocket” and directly related to the the discrimination in a disability discrimination case are called compensatory damages. Compensatory damages can also allow victims to recover for emotional harm, pain and suffering.
Punitive Damages in Disability Discrimination Cases:
Punitive damages are available when the discrimination involved is intentional and willful on behalf of the employer. These damages are meant to punish an employer for its actions or inactions when the employer’s behavior is so unacceptable that it is required. To recover punitive damages, the employee must show that the employer acted with knowledge of the laws implicated and chose to violate them anyway.
If you feel that you are being subjected to any form of employment discrimination in the workplace then you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in labor law immediately. The laws governing employment disputes are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice. Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.