The U.S. Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to make it easier for employees to win large punitive awards for workplace discrimination.
Currently, workers must prove that an employer acted “with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of an aggrieved individual” in order to collect large punitive damages. Prior to the passage of Congress’ 1991 Civil Rights Act, plaintiffs who successfully proved their discrimination cases were not entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, and could only expect to regain their jobs or receive back pay for the discrimination.
Now the Justice Department is seeking to change a provision from the 1991 act so that employees only need prove that the employer’s discrimination was intentional or committed knowingly. The Act already includes limits on the amount of punitive awards and gives juries the power decline requests for higher awards. Both of these limits on company liability would remain in place.