Is it possible to win $300,000 in your EEOC claim?
While if you are a federal employee, and you are a complainant / plaintiff in an EEOC claim, the cap is $300,000 in damages that you are entitled to. There are many factors that go into how much you really will be awarded (if anything). Those factors work against you, as they merely give reason for the judge to deduct from your $300,000 award.
Under the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1991, federal employees who file successful EEO
complaints are entitled to an award of compensatory damages in a proven amount not to exceed
$300,000. Since the passage of the 1991 CRA, some employees have succumbed to the myth that
every complainant who files an EEO complaint gets $300,000 in damages.
The reality, however, could not be more opposite than that myth. In fact, most filed EEO complaints are unsuccessful or fail to result in significant damages awards.
Since 1991, the EEOC has awarded $300,000 to very few federal sector EEO complainants.
(so few in fact, that this blog was unable to find any)
The reality is that damages have to be proven in a successful discrimination case and it is hard to
get a six-figure award. If you do not prove the underlying discrimination or reprisal, you do not
receive any compensatory damages. It should also be remembered that the dollar value of a
compensatory damages award is supposed to reflect payment in an amount equal to the amount
of pain and suffering and other harm actually proven by the employee to have been caused by the
government’s discrimination. Punitive damages (monetary awards aimed at punishing a
defendant found to have engaged in unlawful discrimination) are not awardable against the
federal government. Thus, the “win the lottery” mentality applicable to a certain extent in the
private sector does not apply to EEO complaints against the federal government.
Finally, although it is true to some extent that juries in court discrimination cases tend to award
higher damages amounts to successful plaintiffs than does the EEOC, it is also true that
most discrimination cases filed in federal court never get to the jury because they are dismissed or summarily decided by the judge in favor of the employer before the case is submitted to the jury.
Also, successful jury verdicts can be reduced by the judge and are subject to be reversed by an
appellate court. Hence, the vast majority of EEO complaints do not result in the complainant
being awarded $300,000 in damages.