Most civil rights laws prohibit any form of retaliation against a racial harassment victim that complains or resists the harassment and discrimination. Retaliation is generally defined as an adverse action taken by an employer or their supervisors against a resisting or complaining employee as a result of the employee’s complaints or resistance.
Retaliation may take the form of termination, disciplinary write-up, demotion, pay cut, reduced schedule, denied overtime, reduced hours, reduced benefits, reduced responsibilities, poor performance evaluation, unfavorable transfer, or undesirable shift change. Retaliation also take other forms such as ostracism, refusing to speak or work with the complaining employee, refusal to answer their questions, sabotage, increased or decreased work load, supervisor’s refusal to acknowledge the victim on a day to day basis, refusal to assist or provide necessary assistance or help to the victim, and the assignment of menial tasks to the victim.
Victims of retaliation may sue and recover for retaliation. Damages recoverable will typically include any lost pay and benefits, mental anguish/emotional distress damages, and sometimes punitive damages.
Other Damages Available for Racial Harassment and Retaliation Victims
Generally, the following damages are available to victims of racial harassment and/or retaliation: backpay, lost benefits, lost retirement/401K benefits, subsequent job search expenses, mental anguish/emotional distress damages, out-of-pocket expenses, and expenses for medical treatment, psychiatric treatment and counseling, and diminished earning capacity resulting from the harassment. Where termination or a demotion occurred, the courts typically reinstate the victim to the position that she/he would have had absent the harassment and/or retaliation. In particularly egregious cases, courts would award punitive damages. Furthermore, most civil rights laws permit successful racial harassment claimants to recover all or part of their attorney’s fees and legal expenses.
In racial harassment cases, the specific damages that are allowed as well as the standard of proof are governed by the specific laws under which the lawsuit is brought. Some laws have caps on damages while others do not. Punitive damages are awardable under some statutes but not by others. Similarly, some statutes only permit recovery of actual damages and not mental distress damages. As such, it is important that victims consult an experienced employment racial harassment attorney at the outset to assure that the case is filed under the most beneficial laws and jurisdiction.