What is my sexual harassment lawsuit worth?

by Chris Kuhlman on January 4, 2016

Valuing Sexual Harassment Claims in Minnesota

One of the many questions that we are often asked by potential clients at our initial intake meeting is if they pursue their claim, is what amount of compensation they will receive or should expect if they pursue their case.  While this is certainly an important question, the answer can depend on several factors.

Under the law, there are different categories of monetary compensation that victims of sexual harassment can seek.  (lawyers and judges refer to these as “damages”).  Under Minnesota’s state sexual harassment law, victims can seek the following categories of damages:

Lost Wages and Benefits:

In many sexual harassment cases, there can be a component of wage loss involved relating to the sexual harassment.  For example, if the victim comes forward and reports the sexual harassment and is fired because of the report, he or she can seek their lost income and any lost benefits such as medical and retirement benefits as a result of the wrongful termination.   Or, if the victim has not been fired, but the sexual harassment was so offensive if forced them to take a medical leave of absence to seek necessary mental health therapy or treatment to help them overcome the harassment, the victim can seek their lost wages and benefits for their time away from work.

If the sexual harassment victim is improperly terminated and finds another job before trial or settlement, but the job pays less or offers decreased benefits, the victim can claim the difference between her old job and the new job.

Depending on the circumstances, lost wages can also include:

  • Lost stock options;
  • Retirement benefits;
  • Vacation pay;
  • Sick pay;
  • Bonuses;
  • Commissions.

Future Wage Loss and Future Benefit Loss:

If the victim of sexual harassment has been unable to find suitable and similar employment after their wrongful termination, they can seek future wage loss and the loss of their future benefits for a period of time carrying on into the future.  The amount of future wage loss can depend on the circumstances.  For example, a victim who works in a specialized job field with few employers  or where there are limited job opportunities could argue that they will be unlikely to find similar employment  in their field and make the argument that their future wage loss should be significant.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are expenses that the victim of sexual harassment has had to incur as a result of the sexual harassment.  One of the largest compensatory damage components in a sexual harassment case is usually medical bills.  If the sexual harassment was particularly severe or pervasive, and required the victim to seek medical treatment or therapy, these damages can be pursued as compensatory damages.

Emotional Harm Damages

Often, the most devastating harm of sexual harassment in the workplace is the mental anguish that it causes the victim.  Being subjected to a hostile work environment and repeated sexual advances takes an enormous toll on the victim’s mental health.  Sexual harassment makes coming into work each day a nightmare and can cause, anxiety, fear, humiliation, shame, and depression.  Frequently, the victim thinks about the sexual harassment long after the workday has ended and which can cause lack of enjoyment for life’s activities and difficulty sleeping and eating.  Emotional harm damages are designed to compensate the victim for their loss of enjoyment of their life and their career as a result of the unlawful sexual harassment.

Punitive Damages:

Punitive damages are damages that can be awarded simply to punish the employer for fostering a work environment where pervasive sexual harassment occurs or failing to remedy it in a timely manner.  The extent of punitive damages will depend much on how offensive or negligent the employer’s handling of the situation was.  Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, an employee can receive up to $25,000.00 in punitive damages and trebling (tripling) of all of all of the other damages, including the punitive damages award as punishment for the employer.  Under Federal Law, there is no limit on the amount of punitive damages that a victim can seek.

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

The victim of sexual harassment can also seek to have the Court order the other side to award attorney’s fees and their costs of bringing the lawsuit as well.

As you can see, there are many varying factors in determining a sexual harassment victim’s compensation.  If you or a loved one has been sexually harassed, contact experienced Minnesota sexual harassment lawyer, Christopher Kuhlman at Kuhlman Law, PLLC for a free consultation at (612) 349-2747 to learn more.  We have helped countless victims of sexual harassment stand up for themselves and seek the justice they deserve.

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