What Can I Get If I Win?
NOTE: The D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA) allows a woman to file a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights (DCOHR) or pursue a private lawsuit. You can assume that the explanation of the DCHRA is the same regardless of which procedure you choose, except where it is noted that they differ.
What am I entitled to if I win?
Providing that the trier of fact (i.e., the D.C. Commission on Human Rights (Commission), judge, or jury) finds in your favor, you may be entitled to equitable and/or injunctive relief. You may also be entitled to monetary relief against your employer. You should be aware, however, that what the court grants you (if anything) will vary from case to case.
Specifically, under the DCHRA, your employer, employment agency, or labor organization may be ordered to do any of the following actions (the list is not exhaustive):
What is equitable relief?
Equitable relief is any non-monetary remedy that may be granted based on what the trier of fact (i.e., the Commission, judge, or jury) deems fair and within its powers to enforce. An example of equitable relief is reinstatement to your old job.
What is injunctive relief?
Injunctive relief is an order directing your employer to take (or refrain from) a particular action. For example, the court can order your employer to change its discriminatory practices.
Am I entitled to monetary damages if I win?
Yes, you are entitled to a “reasonable range” of monetary compensation, including compensatory and punitive damages. For example, you may be awarded relief for front pay, back pay, and emotional distress.
What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?
Punitive damages serve as a punishment for an employer and attempt to deter future discrimination, whereas compensatory damages serve to compensate an employee for an actual financial loss that may have occurred as a result of sex discrimination.
Punitive damages are available in D.C. only if you can show the following:1) “evil motive or actual malice” on the part of your employer; and
A mere finding of discriminatory action, without more, will not support an award for punitive damages.
Does the DCHRA place a limit on how much monetary relief I can get?
There is no caps, or limit, on monetary relief under the DCHRA. However, the D.C. courts have held that any award that includes punitive damages that is at least five times greater than the compensatory damages will involve a heavy burden of justification on your part. In other words, for a large award of punitive damages, you have to have a compelling reason why your employer’s action deserves to be punished as such. For example, you may argue that your employer’s conduct was so blatantly discriminatory that it shocks our ordinary notion of what is acceptable in the workplace.
Am I entitled to back pay?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to back pay, which entails wages that you would have received but for your employer’s discriminatory practices.
Am I entitled to “future pecuniary losses”?
"Future pecuniary losses" refers to future economic losses, including wages and benefits that you would have received in the future but for your employer’s sex discrimination. The D.C. courts have ruled that proof of how to calculate such an award with mathematical certainty is not required. However, you must provide some evidence to allow the trier of fact (i.e., the Commission, judge, or jury) to make a reasonable judgment.
One way to establish that you have suffered future pecuniary losses is to show that as a result of losing your job, your future earning capacity has diminished. The court will compare what income you have been earning since leaving your employer with your old salary under your employer to determine if you truly have a diminished earning capacity.
Am I entitled to my old job back?
You may be reinstated in your old job, depending on the circumstances of your case. If your old position is no longer available and you have to accept a different job, you might be entitled to compensation for future lost earnings.
Am I entitled to attorney’s fees?
Yes. The DCHRA provides that reasonable attorney’s fees may be awarded to the prevailing party in a discrimination claim.
Will this be the final result?
Whether your damage award decided by the Commission or trial court is the final result depends on whether you or your employer challenges the award. If you, after discussing the result with your attorney, believe the damage award is unsatisfactory for whatever reason, you may petition for an appeal. Likewise, your employer may decide to challenge an award given in your favor. Essentially, you will have to wait and see if your employer chooses to challenge the award.
If I am not satisfied with the result, can I appeal?
You may appeal your case to a higher court if you, with your attorney’s advice, determine that trier of fact (i.e., the Commission, judge, or jury) made an error when it ruled on your case. However, even if review of the Commission or trial court’s decision is granted, you should note that D.C. appellate court generally defers to the decision of the Commission and trial court.
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