Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), has introduced legislation that would eliminate the caps on the amount of damages plaintiffs can recover in employment discrimination cases under the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Kennedy introduced the bill -- the Equal Remedies Act of 2007 (S. 1928)—on August 1, 2007.
Kennedy said his bill would end "the glaring inequality in the current federal antidiscrimination laws." Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, plaintiffs suing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) can recover compensatory and punitive damages for intentional employment discrimination. But the statute caps the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover based on the size of the employer -- with larger companies subject to greater liability. By contrast, Kennedy said that plaintiffs suing under 42 USC Section 1981, which covers only discrimination on the basis of race or national origin, can recover damages with no caps. Section 1981, unlike Title VII, does not cover discrimination on the basis of sex or religion; Section 1981 also does not cover discrimination based on disability.
The Massachusetts Democrat cited a case of a woman who had sued her employer, Equifax Credit Information Services, for sexual harassment. The woman won her case and a jury award of $1 million in punitive damages. But due to the cap on damages, the court lowered her award to $300,000. "The caps serve no justifiable purpose," Kennedy stated. "They shield the worst employers from the full consequences of the most outrageous acts of discrimination. The deterrent purpose of damages fails when employers know that their liability is limited."
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