Essentially the remedies that will be available to an employee who successfully concludes a lawsuit in their favor against a former employer for wrongful termination are injunctive relief and monetary damages. That may not sound like a whole lot of remedy at first blush but in truth it is nothing short of a boatload of remedies for the wrongfully discharged employee in both equity and in law.
The aggrieved contract employee who was wrongfully terminated will likely be awarded damages that will put him or her in as good a position as if the other party, the employer, had fully performed the contract.
Loss of Benefit of Contract
The lost benefit of the contract includes compensation for (1) lost wages, (2) lost raises and bonuses, calculated to the wage history of the plaintiff employee or his peers and (3) lost employee benefits, such as profit sharing, retirement benefits, profit sharing, Social Security contributions, stock options, tuition reimbursement and vacation time. Depending on the employment contract at issue the former employee may be entitled to past monetary damages and future monetary damages.
An aggrieved employee may recover from an employer damages for harms arising as a consequence to the wrongful termination if such harm was (1) within the foreseeable contemplation of the parties at the time of making the contractual agreement and (2) arose due to foreseeable effects occurring due to the breach of the employment contract.
Tort damages are intended to “make the plaintiff whole” or
to compensate him or her for his losses due to the injury or in this case a
wrongful termination by an employer and related torts arising in connection
with that unfair or illegal act.
An aggrieved employee may seek and receive more than just out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bill and job hunting costs. He may also be entitled to receive damages to cover any one or all of the following:
- Value of the wages and benefits lost due to the tortious conduct
- Recovery of losses due to reliance on intentional misrepresentations made by employer, the value of what he would have received if the claim had been true
- Physical suffering
- Mental or emotional distress
- Impairment of mental capacity
- Diminution of future earning capacity
- Value of aggrieved employee’s time spent defending his or her reputation
- Costs of enforcing the employment contract and related attorney fees
Purely economic losses are not going to be recoverable in tort where there is no personal injury or property damage arising as a result of the tortious actions of the former employer.
Violation of Public Policy Damages
Many States will have commission against discrimination board that is formulated to investigate aggrieved employee claims against a former employer involving some kind of unfair or illegal act culminating in a wrongful termination. These boards enforce State and federal statutes and regulations intended to protect employees against employer discrimination as to race, gender, age, national origin and sexual orientation. Many of these statutes will provide for damages and awards for equitable relief such as being reinstated into the former position as remedies. Compensatory relief such as damages for pain and suffering, back wages emotional distress and economic loss are often awarded to an aggrieved employee. Actual damages and punitive damages may be awarded. Actual damages are those damages which will make the aggrieved party whole and which are the natural and probable consequence of the employer’s illegal acts. Punitive damages will be available when the defendant employer’s conduct warrants condemnation and deterrence. A court may decide to award the aggrieved employee punitive damages against his or her former employer even where the plaintiff has suffered no actual damages and there is no legislative cap on an award of punitive damages.