Case Will Test Limits Of Punitive Sex-Bias Costs

In less than three months, the Supreme Court will issue a landmark ruling in a case that will clarify the parameters for when punitive damages can be awarded in sex-bias and other employment discrimination cases. The case involves a woman who successfully won back pay in the lower courts by arguing that she was passed over for a key lobbying position at the American Dental Assn. because she was female. Under an amendment in 1991 to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, punitive damages of up to $300,000 can be awarded when a discriminated employee can show "malice" or "reckless indifference" on the part of the employers. Those parameters are considered legally vague. Oral arguments in the case were heard earlier this month.

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