Harassment – What Damages May an Employee Be Able to Recover?
An employee who is subjected to unlawful harassment is entitled to recover damages under California law. Damages can include economic damages, emotional distress damages, and in certain circumstances, punitive damages.
Economic damages include lost past wages and lost future wages.
Lost past wages are those wages that the employee has lost, looking backwards, because of the harassment that he or she was subjected to.
For example, if an employee needed to take a leave of absence in order to receive medical treatment because of the harassment he or she was subjected to, the employee could receive damages for the wages he or she lost during that time.
Future lost wages are those wages that the employee would have received in the future but will now not receive because of the harassment they were subjected to.
For example, if an employee is no longer able to work at their place of employment because of the harassment they were subjected to, an employee can make a colorable argument that they should receive, as damages, the wages they would have earned if they had continued to work for their employer.
Emotional Distress Damages
Emotional distress damages are those damages that attempt to compensate an employee for the emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life an employee has suffered because of the unlawful harassment they were subjected to.
In California, an employee can recover punitive damages if he or she proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that their employer was guilty of oppression, fraud or malice. This is a high standard to meet.
In an unlawful harassment case, an employer may be liable for punitive damages if the employer was aware of the unlawful harassment the employee was subjected to and made no attempts to stop the harassment from occurring. This shows that the employer ratified the harassing conduct and in turn, imputes the unlawful harassment on the employer. Punitive damages thus would be appropriate to punish the employer for its inaction and consequent harassment its employee was subjected to.