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Total Articles: 5

eLABORate: Fifth Circuit Points in Different Directions on Emotional Distress Damages

Two separate panels of the Fifth Circuit issued decisions this month within three days of one another, ruling on emotional distress damages in employment cases. The rulings were somewhat inconsistent – the first (Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center) holding that emotional distress damages are not recoverable under the ADEA, and the second (Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC, et al) holding that emotional distress damages are recoverable in FLSA retaliation cases. The latter case does not cite to the first, and the two panels were made up of completely different judges. Both cases, however, cited to longstanding Fifth Circuit precedent Dean v. American Security Insurance Co, and rely on similar statutory language. While the two new opinions do not directly conflict with one another, they are somewhat in tension.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, A Dangerous Cause of Action

This headline, Steelworker awarded $25 million in New York racial lawsuit might seem to come from a typical Title VII or Section 1981 case for racial discrimination.

Back pay award in successful retaliation claim against former employer may be based upon position not awarded by a different employer.

It is generally understood that employees can bring Title VII claims – and be awarded damages - for hostile environment, wrongful termination, and retaliation. What is less clearly understood is the extent of the economic damages for which a former employer may be liable in the situation in which a litigant claims to have lost a job opportunity because of a retaliatory action on the part of that former employer.

Punitive damages of $250 Million awarded to current and former employees in gender discrimination lawsuit.

In a case in which over $3 Million in compensatory damages already had been awarded to a group of 12 female former employees claiming gender discrimination, the same jury awarded $250 Million in punitive damages to a class of 5600 female employees and former employees of Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation for the same claims. Velez v. Novartis Pharma. Corp., S.D.N.Y., No. 04-civ.9194, punitive damages verdict 5/19/10. The case, filed as a class action in 2005 in the Southern District of New York, was a “sex plus” case, meaning that the gender discrimination was brought in tandem with related claims, such as pregnancy discrimination or family leave interference. The plaintiffs in the case against Novartis made claims based upon unequal pay, lack of promotion, and adverse treatment after pregnancy leave.

Third Circuit Applies 1:1 Ratio for Punitive Damages Where Compensatory Damages Were Substantial and Defendants’ Conduct Not Especially Reprehensible.

In this insurance bad faith case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals revisited the oft-litigated question of the proper ratio between compensatory and punitive damages, reducing the punitive award from a 3.13:1 ratio to a 1:1 ratio.