A blog for general human resources Hostile work environments can have a long-lasting effect on an employee’s self-esteem, confidence, and overall mental health. They are also, unfortunately, a reality in many places of business. Although the laws surrounding hostile work environments vary from country to country, it is possible to make a case for damages against the employer if they have violated the law. But what is that case worth? This blog post looks into how hostile work environment cases are valued when pursuing legal action.
The idea of assessing a “price” on a person’s pain and suffering may seem crass, but financial compensation is often the only way businesses will be held accountable for their actions and for the harm they’ve caused. Monetary compensation is also the only way employees can be compensated for their lost wages, paid rest breaks, and other damages related to a hostile work environment. In some cases, punitive damages are even awarded, though they are rare. So, how much money is a hostile work environment case worth? It depends on the situation. Damages in these cases typically take the form of financial compensation for things such as medical costs, lost wages, and emotional distress.
It’s important to note that while laws can vary on a state-by-state basis, employers are required to provide a safe and non-discriminatory work environment for all employees. If they fail to do so, victims are entitled to pursue legal action.
After winning more than $10 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit, a jury awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to an OHS employee who suffered from a hostile work environment. What is happening? Roger Ailes bombshell 20 million dollar settlement has employment law gone nuts. How can these numbers be even possible? O’Reilly paid a 32 million dollar settlement. Something super funky must be going on, right?
How Does the Typical Hostile Work Environment Suitcase Get That Big?
Today I’m going to answer and unpack two very simple questions: number one, how much money is the typical hostile work environment lawsuit worth, and number two, how on earth do some cases get that big? Before I take this video back to the white board and detail it out, let me first say that I’m an employment lawyer in California, but this video is not just for people in California; it’s for all 50 states. However, this video is not legal advice.
Every state has different laws, and every case is drastically different, so if you believe you’re in a hostile work environment, contact a lawyer in your state. If you are in California, you’re more than welcome to reach out to my office because, well, we rock. Here’s my contact info. Oh, and this video is only talking about good hostile work environment cases since every single person who contacts me in my office thinks that they have a great hostile work environment case, most people don’t. By the way, I made an entire other video about how a lawyer judges a case, whether it’s good or not, and I highly recommend that at the end of this video you click on one of the corners—I forget which one it is—it’ll pop up and go to that video and watch it before you contact a lawyer.
You might save yourself and your lawyer a whole lot of grief. Just give me the statistics for all this mumbo-jumbo. well, because there are no statistics. Settlements are confidential, meaning they’re not disclosed to the public, and so there’s no reporting agency that can report upon them. Insurance companies, employers, and employees Nobody wants to disclose what the dollar numbers were; it’s in nobody’s interest, so the statistics that are out there are not reliable. Let’s break down the components that go into valuing the typical hostile work.
Lose Wages in a Hostile Work Environment
environment case First and foremost are lost wages. In most employment contexts, people are making money, so if something bad happens to you and then you get fired unlawfully, you have lost wages. You’re not going to be earning what you were. The best way to explain this is with an example. Let’s say you were making a hundred thousand dollars a year and then you complain about a hostile work environment and you’re fired. You’re not making $100,000 a year anymore, and that’s a very tangible economic loss that a jury and a judge can measure.
The Case of the Unreported Homeowner in the United States
lawyers look at it is your past economic damages or your past lost wages and your future lost wages so ok let’s go with our example making housing how this year then you get fired and then let’s say you’re out of work for a year and then you go to trial and you win okay the jury is gonna look at the past so you’re out of work for a year that’s a hundred thousand dollars cool let’s give award the person a hundred thousand dollars but going forward into the future well they’ve gotten a new job but they’re getting paid fifty thousand dollars a year so this is differential so going forward into the future the jury is going to project how much money that person will have lost due to the unlawful activity the determination due to the hostile work environment that is the very quick and dirty way to look at economic damages and that’s a very significant component to these cases .
The Law and the Workplace in Housing Cases
Lawyers look at it as your past economic damages, your past lost wages, and your future lost wages, so ok, let’s go with our example of housing: this year you get fired, and then let’s say you’re out of work for a year, and then you go to trial and you win. Okay, the jury is going to look at the past. If you’re out of work for a year, that’s a hundred thousand dollars. Cool, let’s award the person a hundred thousand dollars. But going forward into the future, well, they’ve gotten a new job, but they’re getting paid fifty thousand dollars a year, so this is a differential. So going forward into the future, the jury is going to project how much money that person will have lost due to the unlawful activity and the hostile work environment. That’s a very quick and dirty way to look at economic damages, and that’s a very significant component to these cases.
Next, pain and suffering damages are awarded to people who suffer extraordinary emotional distress injuries as a result of the hostile work environment. You mean the legal system will pay people for upset feelings? Yes, yes, it does, and I know what you’re thinking: mm-hmm, I’m not buying it. The legal system shouldn’t reward a bunch of whiners and crybabies. Let’s bring the camera in for an emotional moment. Don’t you think that the twelve members of the jury at the start of every single hostile work environment case are thinking the exact same thoughts? They don’t trust the client or the independent jury.
they don’t know the person they don’t care about the person they find that significant pain and suffering damages have occurred and they awarded money for that why because the lawyers build a case they put on expert testimony who can testify as to the change of behavior that the person has gone through they they put on their medical records that show the things that they’ve done to try to rectify the problem psychologists psychiatrists medications counseling they often are trying to show that the person’s identity was wrapped up in their job and that very identity was ripped out from underneath them due to the harassment at work now these damages are very difficult to prove but at the end of the day juries either award damages or not but how do they put a dollar value on upset feelings well it is very difficult and the best way to really understand it is the lawyers kind of get an idea throughout the case what to ask for then they ask for it and who decides not the judge not the lawyers not the clients it’s the jury that impartial people who don’t care about either side they decide so if you hear about a significant emotional and distress award twelve people decided doc Hey, if you’re finding this video to be helpful and useful, please give it a thumbs up.
If you want to receive more videos like this from me in the future, go and hit that subscription button now. This is important if you know somebody who’s working in a hostile work environment right now. Share this video with them. This video, along with my other videos on hostile work environments, is very educational. It can help somebody learn more about the protections that are in place at work.
The Role of Attorney Fees in the Typical Case
the next component in the typical case our attorney fees attorney fees are so important to the value of these cases what do I mean well number one just the threat of the attorney fees that the company is going to have to pay is significant eight hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour the company’s gonna have to pay their lawyer now attorney attorneys are really expensive for employees as well but employees are not paying for the most part their lawyers up front usually the attorneys are working on a contingency fee which means they get paid a percentage of the case at the end of the case when it settles now secondly and this is really important is that in many states specifically I know for sure in California section one two nine four zero at the California Fair Employment and Housing Act allows for the collection of attorney fees if you have to go all the way to trial to prove your harassment case and you win then you get attorney fees on top of your compensatory damages now they go to the attorneys not the client so why am I talking about it I’m talking about it because that’s a massive leverage point, right? If the company is worried about losing the case and paying their lawyers, and then I have to worry about paying your lawyers, that’s a significant leverage point in settlement negotiations.
Alright, now let’s talk about the truly massive cases. How does this happen?
Punitive Damages: Why the Case Is So Big
all right first everybody’s heard about punitive damages those are the damages meant to punish the company for truly atrocious conduct well okay they’re really rare because you have to prove malice oppression or fraud and which is a really high standard very difficult to do in a civil trial and so if you do prove malice oppression or fraud some really bad stuff has happened here okay so we all understand that but that stuff happens to people all the time so what well the reason why these verdicts get big is because of the legal entity fiction what do I mean by that well a company isn’t a person it doesn’t have emotions you can’t put it in the only way to hurt a company is through its balance statements finances right so the the only way to hurt a company is to take money away from them but a hundred billion dollar company you get a 1 million dollar verdict and yeah that’s a big verdict but that’s nothing for a hundred billion dollar company so in order to make this actually punish the company you have to make it larger but it has to be dependent upon the company’s finances so that’s why these verdicts can sometimes get so large is because literally the lawyers get that financial statement they show the financial statement to the jury and then they say the only way to punish this company is by X number of dollars and then the jury gets to decide or it is an appropriate punishment now it’s limited there are constraints and compensatory damages 9 times there is a Supreme Court upper limit but that’s why they can get so much big settlements we don’t have the entire clue as to how many big ones.
The Role of Healing in the Settlement of a Hostile Work Environment Case
There are, but when they do happen, the reason why they happen is leverage. It’s when the plaintiff, the employee, has something that’s so significant against the company that the company is just going to pay enormous amounts of money to try to keep that secret. Okay, so now everybody thinks that their hostile work environment case is newsworthy. Very rarely do news organizations care about the run-of-the-mill sexual harassment or hostile work environment case.
It’s only when the facts are truly salacious or newsworthy at the time that the company might pay a lot of money. Usually, it’s when the facts of the case are so salacious that it could devastate entire departments or destroy the entire company if news gets out. When an employee has that kind of leverage, they can get enormous settlements, but we don’t know all the big settlements that happen because they’re mostly kept confidential. It’s very rare that word gets out. Let’s look at the last factor, which I think is the most important.
Intangible Factors in a Big Case
part of getting a big case the intangible factors Now what do I mean by that? First of all, honesty, or probably more appropriately, dishonesty here, and I’m not talking about my client; I’m talking about the company, the executives, the decision maker. If you can show or your attorney can show that all the main people are lying and lying about big things, not just little insignificant things, then you’re going to have way more leverage and way more of a threat of punitive damages.
secondly how big is the insurance policy is there even an insurance policy a significant insurance policy is gonna play into whether or not you can get a big settlement or big verdict and so when you hear about big settlements and big verdicts usually there’s either a big insurance policy or it’s a massive company right the last factor and I think this is the most important is the quality of your attorney now obviously I’m a lawyer so I’m a little bit biased but I think the quality of your lawyer is the most important factor in all of this if you hire somebody who doesn’t understand your case it’s unique characteristics the pressure points of the defendant in your case then you’re not going to get the maximum sized settlement but if you hire a good lawyer who’s willing to take the time to listen to you and do all the work that’s necessary to work your case up appropriately then you’re more likely to get an appropriate settlement for your case so I hope this video has been helpful like I said I’m gonna put in one of the corners of the video a link to another hostile work environment video that I made which is actually how we measure what’s a good case or a bad case make sure you watch that video before you contact a lawyer I stayed too late to finish this video, and my wife is unhappy with me, so come on, give it a thumbs up, okay, and yeah, that’s all I got for you. Have a great day.