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New York Court Discusses Damages Award in Employment Discrimination Cases

February 7, 2021

In employment discrimination cases, the primary issues are whether the defendant is liable, and if so, what damages are owed. Generally, defendants do not concede liability and will dispute what compensation, if any, is recoverable, and the issues will be presented to a jury. Even if a jury awards the plaintiff damages, though, a defendant may argue that the verdict was unjust and may seek a new trial. In a recent New York opinion arising out of a racial discrimination case, the court explained the grounds for modifying an award for emotional distress damages. If you were discriminated against in the workplace due to your race, you could be owed compensation, and it is advisable to meet with a New York employment discrimination attorney regarding your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Claims and Damages

It is reported that the plaintiff filed claims of racial discrimination in violation of Title VII against the defendant, his employer. The matter proceeded to trial, and a jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him $1.5 million dollars in compensatory damages. The court judgment against the defendant in an amount in excess of $2 million dollars, which represented the compensatory damages owed to the plaintiff as well as equitable relief in the form of back pay, attorneys’ fees, costs, and lost pension income. The defendant then filed a motion requesting a new trial or a remittitur, arguing in part that the damages awarded to the plaintiff for emotional distress were excessive.

Modifying a Damages Award in an Employment Discrimination Case

The court explained that a remitter is a statement on behalf of the court that the damages awarded by the jury were shocking and essentially requires a plaintiff to choose between a new trial and a reduction of an excessive verdict. The court explained that while it is the jury’s domain to calculate damages, there is an upper limit as to what is reasonable. Additionally, a jury cannot discard analysis due to sympathy for a plaintiff and treat harm as grounds for a windfall.

If a court determines that a jury’s verdict is excessive, it may condition denial of a motion for a new trial on the plaintiff’s acceptance of reduced damages. A verdict will be deemed excessive if it is shocking to the judicial conscience and constitutes a denial of justice. To determine what is considered an appropriate award, the court will look at damages awarded in comparable cases. In the subject case, the court ultimately agreed that the damages awarded to the plaintiff for emotional distress were excessive, and they were reduced to $50,000.

Speak to a Trusted Employment Attorney in New York

If you are the victim of discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to pursue claims against your employer, and you should speak to a lawyer about your options. The trusted employment attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP possess the knowledge and experience needed to help people who are subject to employment discrimination prove their employers should be held accountable, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or by calling our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 to set up a conference.

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