Legal Memorandum: Relief available to Title VII Litigants

Issue: Does the legislative history of 42 U.S.C. 1981a demonstrate that the Act was intended to broaden the relief available to plaintiffs?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Relief; Title VII claim; Compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 151 F.3d 402
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. 1981a; Civil Rights Act of 1991, 105 Stat. 1071, § 2
Date: 08/01/2001

Prior to 1991, Title VII did not allow for the recovery of compensatory damages in sexual discrimination cases; rather, a plaintiff who sued under Title VII, unlike a plaintiff who suffered racial discrimination, was entitled only to backpay, reinstatement, or injunctive or other equitable relief.  See Pollard v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 532 U.S. ____, (June 4, 2001); compare 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(g) with 42 U.S.C. § 1981.  The 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act, which resulted in the addition of § 1981a, thus “made fundamental changes in both the procedures and remedies available to Title VII litigants.”  Allison v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 151 F.3d 402, 409 (5th Cir. 1998).  The new remedies included the entitlement to compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages, as capped by the statute.  See Pollard, supra; 42 U.S.C. § 1981a (2000).

Congress was motivated to enact the 1991 amendments because it wanted to broaden the relief available to sexual harassment victims.  As the Supreme Court explained in the recent Pollard case,

In the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congress determined that victims of employment discrimination were entitled to additional remedies. Congress expressly found that "additional remedies under Federal law are needed to deter unlawful harassment and intentional discrimination in the workplace," without giving any indication that it wished to curtail previously available remedies.

(emphasis added) (citing Civil Rights Act of 1991, 105 Stat. 1071, § 2; concluding there that because front pay was available […]

Subscribe to Litigation Pathfinder

To get the full-text of this Legal Memorandum ... and more!

(Month-to-month and annual subscriptions available)