Dramatic Increase In EEOC Emotional Distress Awards.
For employee advocates, it has long been the common wisdom that for large non-pecuniary awards (emotional distress), a case should be filed in U.S. District Court and not placed before an Administrative Judge of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is time now for employee advocates to reconsider that decision. The EEOC has sent two very clear signals that past non-pecuniary awards by the Commission are no longer considered adequate. In just the past two years the Commission issued a significant number of decisions that dramatically increased non-pecuniary (emotional distress) damages awards. In only four years, the Commission issued more than half of the 24 decisions that awarded $150,000 or more for non-pecuniary damages.
It is not clear from the EEOC’s decisions if there was an institutional decision to dramatically increase non-pecuniary damages awards or if this is result of decisions in individual cases reflecting research on 20 years of jury awards and appellate decisions. No matter how this trend began, it is a welcome change from the many disappointingly small non-pecuniary damages awards by the Commission in the past. This is a grand way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the amendment to the Civil Rights Act that provided compensatory damages. The $300,000 cap on compensatory damages remains and is now also 20 years old. Each year the value of $300,000 has been gradually devalued by inflation. It will take an act by Congress to correct the cap on damages. Read more by John Bowers here.