Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

The Obameter

Eliminate caps on damages for discrimination cases


Will sign into law the Equal Remedies Act of 2007 "to do away with the caps on compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII that presently impede the ability of victims of racial and gender discrimination to fully recover for the wrongs they have suffered."


Updates

No change in law eliminating caps

The Equal Remedies Act of 2007 would have eliminated caps on damages in discrimination cases "that presently impede the ability of victims of racial and gender discrimination to fully recover for the wrongs they have suffered.” The bill briefly returned the next year as a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 2008, which was introduced in the Senate but had no companion in the House.

Since then, we find no sign of it. No new version of the Equal Remedies Act was introduced in the 111th Congress (covering the years 2009 and 2010). Same goes for the current Congress.

Eliminating caps on damages in employment discrimination cases is an effort that has faded away. We'll revisit this if we find new evidence, but for now we rate it a Promise Broken.

Sources:

Extensive searches of THOMAS, the Library of Congress website, Dec. 17 & 18, 2012

THOMAS, Civil Rights Act of 2008, introduced Jan. 24, 2008

Bill introduced in previous Congress is a no-show so far

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to sign into law the Equal Remedies Act of 2007 "to do away with the caps on compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII that presently impede the ability of victims of racial and gender discrimination to fully recover for the wrongs they have suffered."
 
Currently, compensatory and punitive damages for intentional violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are capped based on the size of the employer at $50,000 to $300,000. The Equal Remedies Act -- first introduced in 2007 as a stand-alone bill and later incorporated into the Civil Rights Act of 2008 -- would have lifted those caps, providing greater compensation for plaintiffs alleging discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
 
A change would also pose greater financial risk for employers, which created strong opposition within the business community. The changes were sought by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. All of the bills' co-sponsors were Democrats.
 
Neither version of the bill went anywhere in the previous Congress, and while some analysts had expected a new version to be proposed in the current Congress, a search through THOMAS, the online source for congressional bills, has turned up no evidence that one has yet been offered.
 
If a bill is introduced, we would shift this promise to In the Works. But for now, we'll call it Stalled.

Sources:

Jones, Day, " Significant Labor and Employment Initiatives of the Obama Administration and 111th Congress ," January 2009

Epstein, Becker, Green, "The End of Caps? Equal Remedies Act Debated in Congress" ( legal analysis ), April 25, 2008