Punitive damages play a crucial role in employment law cases, particularly in California, where they serve as a powerful deterrent against egregious employer misconduct. As an employee, it’s essential to understand punitive damages and how they can protect your rights in the workplace.

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are monetary awards granted to punish defendants for particularly egregious conduct and to deter similar behavior in the future. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to compensate the plaintiff for losses suffered, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and send a message that such conduct will not be tolerated.

Necessary Showing for Punitive Damages

In California, to recover punitive damages in an employment law case, a plaintiff generally has to show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with oppression, fraud, or malice plaintiff may recover.

“Malice” means either: (a) the defendant intended to cause injury to the plaintiff; or (b) the defendant’s conduct was “despicable” and carried on with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights and safety of others. “Conscious disregard” means the defendant must have “actual knowledge of the risk of harm it is creating and, in the face of that knowledge, fail to take steps it knows will reduce or eliminate the risk of harm.

“Oppression” is “despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.”

“Despicable conduct” is conduct that is “so vile, base, contemptible, miserable, wretched, or loathsome that it would be looked down upon and despised by ordinary decent people.”

If such a showing is made, then the plaintiff can recover, in addition to compensatory damages, damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.

Examples of conduct that may warrant punitive damages in employment law cases can include:

  • Discrimination or harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, or disability.
  • Retaliation against whistleblowers or employees who exercise their legal rights.
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

How Employment Rights Attorneys Can Help

  1. Case Evaluation:
    An employment rights attorney can evaluate your case to determine if punitive damages may be recoverable based on the severity of the employer’s conduct. They will assess the evidence, interview witnesses, and analyze the legal grounds for seeking punitive damages.
  2. Legal Strategy:
    With their proficiency in employment law, attorneys can develop a strategic legal approach to maximize your chances of obtaining punitive damages. They will gather evidence, prepare legal arguments, and present your case effectively in court.
  3. Negotiation and Settlement:
    Employment rights attorneys are skilled negotiators who can advocate for punitive damages during settlement negotiations with the employer. They will leverage the threat of punitive damages to secure a favorable settlement that compensates you for your losses and punishes the employer for their misconduct.
  4. Litigation Representation:
    If your case goes to trial, your attorney will represent you in court and argue for punitive damages before the judge or jury. They will present compelling evidence of the defendant’s egregious conduct and advocate for an appropriate award of punitive damages.

Importance of Legal Guidance

Punitive damages serve as a vital tool in holding employers accountable for egregious misconduct and deterring future violations of employment rights. If you believe you have been subjected to such conduct in the workplace, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced employment rights attorney. With their guidance, you can seek justice through punitive damages and protect your rights in the workplace. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an employment rights attorney to explore your legal options and pursue the compensation you deserve.

Contact Akopyan Law Firm, A.P.C. when you need an employment rights attorney serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, and Ventura. Please see our website and our case results to see what we have achieved for clients in Southern California. We offer a complimentary case evaluation, so do not hesitate to contact us.