Legal Memorandum: Award of Emotional Distress Damages

Issue: What is the range of emotional distress damages awarded in employment discrimination cases?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment discrimination case; Emotional distress or mental anguish; Compensatory damage awards
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2004

It is well established that “compensatory damage awards for emotional distress or mental anguish should be similar to awards made in other cases involving comparable degrees of injury.”  Leveille v. N.Y. Air Nat’l Guard, ARB Case No. 98-079, ALJ Case Nos. 94-TSC3, ‑TSC4, 1999 WL 966951, at *3 (Admin. Rev. Bd. Oct. 25, 1999). 

For example, in Jones v. EG&G Def. Materials Inc., ARB Case No. 97-129, ALJ Case No. 1995-CAA-003, 1998 WL 686656 (Admin. Rev. Bd. Sept. 29, 1998), the $50,000 award was based on testimony that (1) the inability to work in his chosen field was a cloud over his head;  (2) the loss of medical benefits meant his wife could not have scheduled surgery to restore hearing in one of her ears (the hearing in her other ear was deteriorating); (3) the neighbors watched while his car was repossessed; (4) customers of the appliance-repair shop he worked at watched while his truck was repossessed; (5) he could not continue to support two step-daughters who were in college; and (6) his impaired credit rating.  Id. at **18-19. 

In Leveille, 1999 WL 966951, $45,000 was awarded.  The complainant was blacklisted by the Air National Guard and negative references were provided to a records-checking firm and the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”).  Some of the negative references had been removed, but some remained in the records at the OPM.  Id. at *3.  She suffered severe anxiety attacks and dysphoria (a state of anxiety, depression and restlessness), could not […]

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