What relief could I get if an employer illegally discriminated against me?

The types of remedies that might be available to you will depend upon what the employer did (the “discriminatory action”) and how it affected you. For example, if an employer refused to hire you for an illegally discriminatory reason, the remedy may include hiring you for the job or giving you any back pay or benefits that you would have received if you had been hired. If you filed a lawsuit in court, you may also get back any money you spent on attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and court costs.[1989]

You also may be awarded “compensatory” or “punitive damages.” For intentional cases of discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), religion, disability, or genetic information, compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded. Note: punitive and compensatory damages are rare, and should never be expected.

    Compensatory damages repay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs of continuing with a job search) and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered because of the discrimination.
    Punitive damages may be awarded to punish an employer who has committed an especially hateful or careless act of discrimination.

In addition, the employer may be required to stop any discriminatory practices immediately and take steps to make sure not to discriminate again in the future. For example, if the employer had a blanket ban on hiring people with criminal records, they would have to change this policy and remove any language on the job application that says people with convictions will not be hired.

  1. 1989

    See EEOC, Remedies for Employment Discrimination, http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/remedies.cfm.