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Bringing Claims Under the Florida Civil Rights Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: What’s the Difference in Damages?

Employment5

If you are considering moving forward with litigation for an employment discrimination claim, you may have to decide which claims to file. While many individuals may have the option of bringing claims under both the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) as well as Title VII of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), there is another question as to whether you really need to bring both. Most likely, if you are filing Title VII claims, you may end up litigating in federal court. However, if you only bring claims under the FCRA and the company is not a foreign entity (like an out of state company), then you may be staying in state court. Some employees would prefer to stay in state court, thus forgoing the opportunity to bring Title VII claims and only proceeding with FCRA claims to stay in state court. Due to other factors, some people may not have the option about where to file and whether they want to litigate in federal or state court. However, if you have an option, one key issue to consider is what is the difference? Here, we concentrate on the different damages you may recover with FCRA claims versus Title VII claims.

Damages Available Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992

Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA), Florida employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. When a Florida employee believes that she or he has been discriminated against at work, it may be possible to file an employment discrimination lawsuit. If the plaintiff wins their case, what kinds of damages can they expect to receive?

A successful plaintiff in an employment discrimination claim brought under the Florida Civil Rights Act, may be entitled to  “compensatory damages, including, but not limited to, damages for mental anguish, loss of dignity, and any other intangible injuries.” Compensatory damages are a form of damages that are designed to compensate a victim for their losses which reasonably stem from loss of employment, but are subjective. They are determined by a jury if and when a client gets to a jury. Sometimes compensatory damages may be awarded to compensate a plaintiff for direct economic losses (such as loss of benefits), while in other situations compensatory damages can compensate a plaintiff for losses that do not have a precise economic figure attached (such as loss of dignity).

In addition, a plaintiff may be eligible to receive punitive damages, which are also determined by a jury. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not designed to compensate a plaintiff for losses. Instead, punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for a particularly bad act and to discourage such behavior in the future. Under Florida law for the FCRA, for private employees, punitive damage awards are capped at $100,000. If you work for a public employer, under Fla. Stat. 768.28, punitive damages are not awarded. The statute clarifies that, for “the state and its agencies . . . liability shall not include punitive damages.”

Damages Available Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

How do damage awards differ in claims filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? In brief, plaintiffs can be eligible to receive both compensatory and punitive damages. However, as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains, for private employers, there are caps on both compensatory and punitive damage awards that are tied to the size of the employer. The following are the caps that depend upon the size of the employer:

  • $50,000 limit for employers with 15-100 employees;
  • $100,000 limit for employers with 101-200 employees;
  • $200,000 limit for employers with 201-500 employees; and
  • $300,000 limit for employers with more than 500 employees.

Similarly, punitive damages are not available for Title VII claims against public employers, either. If you have questions about where to file your employment discrimination claim, it is important to discuss your case with a Florida employment discrimination lawyer. We can discuss your options with you and can help you to better understand the damages for which you may be eligible. Contact Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A. today to learn more about how we can assist you.

Resources:

eeoc.gov/employees/remedies.cfm

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0760/Sections/0760.01.html

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.28.html

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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