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The concept of back pay involves recovering wages that should have been paid to a victim had an ADA violation not occurred. This could include wages that would have been earned had the person been allowed to work in his position instead of having to leave. It could also have included those wages that would have been earned if the person had been promoted instead of unlawfully denied that promotion. This type of damage includes both wages and benefits that were applicable. The time period runs from the date of the beginning of the violation to the trial date.
To address harm going forward due to an ADA violation, compensatory damages cover costs or valuations associated with ongoing injury. This can include both emotional and physical pain and suffering, mental injury, physical limitation versus previous abilities prior to the violation, and difficulties that otherwise would not have occurred but for the violation happening. However, compensatory damages are not open-ended; they are limited by caps or restrictions of total damages allowed by specifications in federal law. For instance, in an organization of up to 100 employees, the maximum amount of compensatory damages that can be claimed is $50,000.
Unless an attorney takes a case on a pro bono basis (free work) or on a contingency basis (share of any winnings, no cost if a loss), litigation can be expensive. Since many ADA cases tend to involve employment, it involves employment law
in which attorneys like to be paid up front rather than on contingency. As a result, the cost of going to trial can be intimidating. Being able to recover such costs evens the field for the individual victim against an employer who can afford an attorney’s work far more easily.
Punitive damages are intended by the legal system to send a two-fold message. To the receiver it’s to make sure the judgment is so financially painful that the violation behavior will be avoided in the future. To observers who could do the same act, it’s intended to be a visible, legal deterrent. Under the ADA, punitive damages are restricted, however, to those cases were an employer intentionally committed an ADA violation, not just negligently. If liability is found, the amount is capped, again by specified amounts based on how many employees exist in the employer organization.
Very similar to compensatory damages, the ADA also allows front pay. This type of damage pays for what would have been earned but was lost by the ADA violation. It takes some argument and extension of logic to explain the future losses and win the amount, but it is allowable.
Where a behavior or omission of an action by a party needs to be stopped before further injury can occur to a victim, the ADA allows injunctive relief. While not a monetary damage, an injunction can still be powerful in legally forcing an environment change for a victim.