Can You Get an Award of Punitive Damages in a New Jersey Employment Case?
If you file an employment lawsuit in New Jersey and win, the court will award you damages. In an employment lawsuit, damages may include all the financial and emotional losses an individual suffers due to their employer’s unlawful actions, as well as punitive damages.
Below are some of the common damages recoverable in a New Jersey employment case;
- Back pay (past lost wages and benefits) – Back pay damages usually reflect the amount of money an individual lost due to a demotion, wrongful termination, or another adverse employment action that they experienced up to the date of their trial. Proving the amount of money you have already lost is usually an easy task.
- Front pay (future lost wages and benefits) – Front pay damages usually reflect the amount of money an individual will continue losing after their case. For example, suppose you are still unemployed at the time your case comes to an end or are receiving less than you were receiving before your employer committed an adverse action against you. In that case, you might be eligible for front pay damages. Proving the amount of money you will lose after your case is over can be tricky, so make sure you work with a skilled employment law attorney.
- Emotional distress damages – These are damages meant to compensate you for the depression, anxiety, or another form of emotional damage you may have experienced due to your employer’s unlawful actions.
- Physical distress damages – These damages are meant to compensate you for the physical pain and suffering you have endured because of your employer’s actions.
Can You be Awarded Punitive Damages in a New Jersey Employment Case?
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be awarded punitive damages. However, it is crucial to note that punitive damages are not always awarded in New Jersey employment cases. Punitive damages are only awarded in exceptional circumstances. Under New Jersey Law, punitive damages in employment cases are only awarded if both the following aspects are present;
- An employer’s act was “especially egregious.”
- At least one of the employer’s “upper management” employees participated in or was willfully indifferent to the wrongful act.
“Especially egregious” conduct is defined as conduct motivated by actual malice or that was done with a willful and wanton disregard of the plaintiff’s rights.
“Actual participation” means that an upper management employee knew about the wrongful conduct and engaged in affirmative acts to accomplish that unlawful conduct.
“Willful indifference” means that an upper management employee knew about the wrongful conduct but chose to ignore or disregard it rather than stop it.
The main reason punitive damages are only awarded in limited circumstances is that these types of damages are meant to punish an employer. When it comes to civil cases, the goal is not to punish a defendant. The goal is usually to compensate plaintiffs. With that said, you should know that it’s not impossible to get an award for punitive damages. However, you need an experienced and skilled employment attorney who can maximize your chance of being awarded punitive damages. In New Jersey, punitive damages are generally recoverable in whistleblower, retaliation and discrimination cases.
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