Remedies for Employment Discrimination

  • Whenever discrimination is found, the goal of the law is to put the victim of discrimination in the same position (or nearly the same) that he or she would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. In a sense, the law attempts to make the individual whole.
  • The types of relief available to an individual will depend upon the discriminatory action and the effect it had on the individual.
  • The employer will be required to stop any discriminatory practices and to take steps to prevent discrimination in the future.

Compensatory Damages

  • Compensatory damages may be awarded in cases involving intentional discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual harassment, transgender, gender identity, and pregnancy), religion, disability, or genetic information.
  • Compensatory damages pay victims for out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination (such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses), and compensate them for any emotional harm suffered (such as mental anguish, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment of life).
  • There are limits on the amount of compensatory damages a person can recover. The limit that an individual can recover from the National Institutes of Health (NIH),or any other employer with more than 500 employees, is $300,000. This amount is reserved for the most egregious of cases involving significant damages and is not routinely awarded by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Sex Discrimination & Liquidated Damages

  • Cases involving intentional sex-based, wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, individuals cannot recover compensatory damages, but may be entitled to “liquidated damages.”
  • Liquidated damages may be awarded in response to an especially malicious or reckless act of discrimination.
  • The amount of liquidated damages that may be awarded is equal to the amount of back pay awarded to the individual.

Attorney Fees & Court Costs

  • Individuals who successfully litigate claims under Title VII or the Rehabilitation Act are entitled to receive attorneys’ fees and other costs incurred in processing the Individual’s complaint.
  • Attorneys’ fees are not recoverable for claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or for complaints filed by Commissioned Corps Officers.
  • Individuals may only receive reasonable attorneys’ fees if they are represented by an attorney.
  • Individuals that represent themselves (pro se), or are represented by non-attorney representatives, are not eligible to receive attorneys’ fees; however, a successful complainant that is not represented by an attorney may recover costs of litigation.


  • Settlement discussions are permissible at any stage of proceedings.
  • During settlement discussions, the individual and the NIH representative are expected to discuss and consider ideas, methods, and means of resolving the dispute.
  • It is important to understand that for there to be any real prospect for a settlement, both parties may be required to compromise.
  • At the NIH, any settlement which would result in a payment over $25,000 requires approval of a three-member settlement committee consisting of the Deputy Director of NIH, the Director of the Office of Management, and the Director of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. NIH Institutes and Centers are responsible for obtaining approval from the settlement committee prior to executing the settlement agreement.