Michael M. Shultz
Both Kansas and federal employment discrimination laws provide a variety of remedies to Kansas employees when their employment rights have been violated. If an employee has to bring
a lawsuit under the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, the legal remedies are not as great as they are under federal law. For the most part, an employee only brings a lawsuit under the Kansas act when dealing with a small employer that is not subject to federal law. Generally, the Kansas law allows for both equitable and legal relief. Equitable relief refers to an injunction that orders an employer to reinstate or promote to a position that the employee should have.
Legal relief refers to money damages--that is, the payment of compensation for injuries done to the Kansas employee. Under Kansas law, an employee is entitled to be compensated for his or her economic loss, including lost wages and benefits. The employee can also get compensatory damages for emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation. However, Kansas has a cap of
$2,000 on such damages. The law also does not provide that the employer has to pay the employee's attorneys fees if the employee prevails in the lawsuit.
Federal Remedies for Kansas Employees
When an employee is able to sue under federal law, the remedies available to the employee are much better. However, the remedies vary depending upon the federal law that is violated. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which deals with discrimination for gender, race, color, religion and national background, an employee can obtain equitable relief such as an order to be
reinstated or promoted, damages for economic loss and compensatory damages. The federal law has a cap on compensatory damages of $300,000 for employers with over 500 employees, with
lower amounts for smaller employers. The law also allows punitive damages against employers who knowingly violate the law. These same types of damages apply for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act works differently. This law uses the remedies available under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which only provides for damages for economic loss. Therefore, the victim of age discrimination cannot be compensated for emotional distress damages associated with the discrimination. However, when the employer's violation of the law is willful, the employee is entitled to liquidated damages--this doubles the amount of the damages.
For all of these laws, the employee who prevails at trial is entitled to have the employer pay the employee's costs and attorneys fees. Thus, if the employees' attorney had $30,000 in time billed on the case, and that amount was reasonable, the employer must pay this amount to the employee. In addition, if it cost the employee $5,000 to bring the case (e.g., cost of depositions, an expert witness, etc.), the employer must also reimburse the employee for those costs.