What is my Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Worth?
*This is a transcript of the Facebook Live video from 4-26-18 Click here to watch the video.
So, the next question is, pretty logical question is, well if I filed my employer what can I get, what’s my case worth? These cases particularly in places like Memphis are not nearly as valuable as people think they are often times. The real measure of damage is how long are you out of work. The main element of damage is what we call back pay and front pay. Back pay is the amount of money you would have made if you hadn’t been fired or suffered the adverse employment action, maybe you were demoted or maybe you were suspended absent the illegal activity. So, up to the point of the settlement or up to the point of the trial.
So let’s say you’re fired on January 1st, you file a complaint and the trial happens the January 1st. Well then your back pay is one year’s worth of salary and benefits. Your front pay is the difference between what you would have made and what you’re actually going to make going forward. That’s what we lawyers call an equitable remedy and so it’s difficult to determine how far in the future you can get front pay. That money has to be adjusted to present value. What you do is you hire an expert to help you calculate what that pay would be. I’ve seen front pay awards for one year, two years and I’ve seen them for five or 10 years. Just really depends on your particular situation.
You have a duty to mitigate your damage. What that means is that from the moment you’re fired, you need to make a reasonable effort to get reemployed in the same or similar type employment. So it’s important to document that all the activity and all the effort you make to hunt for a new job almost from the very, very beginning, and that’s one of the things that we counsel our clients on and help them do is to document every website they visit, every networking phone call they make, every conversation they have about looking for a new job so that the employer if they end up suing them doesn’t Monday morning quarterback them on their inability to find another job.
Sometimes it’s really easy to find substitute employment and there are some cases where it’s nearly impossible. I’ve had clients where their former employer was literally the only employer within 200 miles of their house where they could perform a same or similar job. But that still isn’t relieve you from the obligation to look and to try to find substitute employment even if it’s not exactly the same. Juries tend to look more favorably on litigants who have worked in the mean time even if it’s not at the same job than somebody who’s just sitting at home. But again, every case is different and it’s all a matter of how that is presented.
Another element of damage is what we call compensatory damage. The automobile accident scenario you might call that pain and suffering. That’s much more difficult to recover in these employment cases unless you have egregious conduct on behalf of the defendant. A lot of people who sit on juries think well, getting fired is a part of life and that’s just part of what you have to suffer through if you’re going to be in the workforce. So you don’t get nearly as much compensation for pain and suffering for just what we call garden variety anxiety having been fired than if you’ve had a medical or a mental ramification from. That could be anything from stress to high blood pressure to hypertension, lack of sleep that result in some physical manifestation with some medical records or therapy bills. When you have that situation, you have the ability to get more than just a few thousand dollars.
Under federal law, there are caps on that kind of damage. The caps for smaller companies are 200,000 and the caps for larger companies are 300,000. So that’s the most you can get. Under federal law you can’t get punitive damages, although state law is a little more generous in Tennessee and other states. These are not cases where you see huge verdicts absent some dire circumstances on behalf of the plaintiffs and some really obnoxious conduct on the parts of the defendants.
So usually what you’re looking for in cases like this is you’re usually looking for enough money to get between where you are and where your next job is and then a little bit of something for the effort and have your attorney’s fees recovered. That’s the third element of damage is recovery of your attorney’s fees. So, you can get all or part of your attorney’s fees as part of the settlement or verdict if the case goes fully to trial.
That’s kind of hitting the high spots if you will of the kinds of cases that can be brought and the kinds of damages that you can recover. It’s definitely a reasonable thing to do to want to be compensated if you are illegally and unjustly terminated and if you have been and you think that you might have a case, I would encourage you to go to the EEOC, find a private attorney such as the Crone Law Firm to help you evaluate whether or not in fact you have a case.
I can tell you that we get literally hundreds of calls a month for these kinds of things and we take only a very small percentage of those cases as clients because unfortunately many, many people who are treated very, very poorly and very badly by their employers, we sometimes have to deliver the bad news more often than not that unfortunately, even though you were treated so shamefully what they did is not illegal. But, don’t assume that that’s your circumstance. Check it out, cross that off your list and if you have a claim pursue it and if you don’t then I always say the best revenge is living well.