Court To Review Punitive Damages For Discrimination

Expect a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court early next year regarding when punitive damages can be granted in employment discrimination cases. This week the Court agreed to hear an appeal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that said employers can be required to pay punitive damages only when there are "particularly egregious" violations or "truly outrageous acts of discrimination." That decision conflicts with other appellate courts that have awarded punitive damages even under fairly ordinary circumstances. The D.C. appellate court agreed that the plaintiff, attorney Carole Kolstad, was denied a promotion to legislative director in the Washington office of the Chicago-based American Dental Assn. because of sex discrimination and awarded her almost $53,000 in back pay. But the court said that she was not entitled to punitive damages.

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