What are the damage caps for employment discrimination cases and how do they apply?

There are damage caps for employment cases under both federal law and Texas law. These caps are based on the size of the employer and apply to what are known as punitive and compensatory damages.

Compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded in cases involving intentional discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), religion, disability, or genetic information.

Compensatory damages pay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses) and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).

Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination. They do not include lost wages and attorneys’ fees.

There are limits on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a person can recover. These limits vary depending on the size of the employer:

For employers with 15-100 employees, the limit is $50,000.
For employers with 101-200 employees, the limit is $100,000.
For employers with 201-500 employees, the limit is $200,000.
For employers with more than 500 employees, the limit is $300,000.
You will notice that the caps start at 15 employees, this is because under Texas and Federal law most discrimination claims only apply to employers with 15 or more employees. However this calculation is not straight forward so you should always seek out a consultation with a board certified employment lawyer if you feel you have been discriminated against, even if you work for small employer. You should also note that some other states, such as New Mexico have different limits on the number of employees that are required to have to file a lawsuit and different damage caps. As an El Paso employment lawyer I often have clients who come to see me and say they saw someone received a million dollars or more for a discrimination claim. That is always possible because other states have higher limits or no limits. Also those cases might have involved claims that are not limited by damage caps. However each case must be evaluated to determine what caps, if any apply.

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