Title VII of the Civil Rights Act allows some employees who have been discriminated against to recover punitive damages from the employer. An employee will be entitled to punitive damages when an employer engages in discriminatory practices with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual.
Compensatory damages are recoverable when the employer “intentionally discriminates” against the employee.In order to recovery punitive damages, the employee must show that the employer had an intention to break federal law.This is a difficult task for the employee because it requires admission of evidence showing that the employer in fact had knowledge of the federal law, and that he or she intentionally disregarded it.This requires the employee to get into their employer’s head.
There will be many cases where a company believes that its discrimination is lawful.For example, an employer may rely on age in making an employment decision, but not know he or she is in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. In these types of cases, employers will only be potentially subject to compensatory damages.
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