Nashville Bar Association
Tennessee Bar Association
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Vanderbilt Law School

How Much Is A Tennessee Employment Case Worth?

In addition to the types of damages that may be awarded in a given case, a proper case valuation requires your lawyer to factor in damages caps and your duty to mitigate. Both topics are discussed below.

Damages Caps In Tennessee Employment Cases

Damages caps are laws that limit the amount of compensatory and punitive damages that you may be awarded for your case. Damages caps exist for many employment law claims under Tennessee and federal law as detailed below.

A. Federal Caps

Under federal law, compensatory and punitive damages (combined) are capped based on the size of the employer as follows:

  • 15-100 employees ($50,000)
  • 101-200 employees ($100,000)
  • 201-500 employees ($200,000)
  • 501 employees or more ($300,000)

Note that damages for claims filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 are not capped at all.

B. State Caps

Tennessee state law caps compensatory damages and punitive damages separately. Compensatory damages are capped based on the size of the employer as follows:

  • 8-14 employees ($25,000)
  • 15-100 employees ($50,000)
  • 101-200 employees ($100,000)
  • 201-500 employees ($200,000)
  • 501 or more employees ($300,000)

Punitive damages in Tennessee are capped at the greater of two times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.

A Plaintiff’s Duty to Mitigate Damages

“Mitigation” is an extremely important legal principle in employment cases. It simply means that a plaintiff cannot sit on his or her hands and let damages accrue. You must use “reasonable diligence” to locate “substantially equivalent” employment and failure to do so can cancel out a back pay award.

A “substantially equivalent” position offers similar compensation, promotional opportunities, job responsibilities, working conditions, and job status as the position from which you have been unlawfully fired. That said, you might not satisfy your duty to mitigate by insisting on an identical job with the same compensation.

It is important to note that the employer carries the burden of establishing that you failed to mitigate by showing that (1) your economic harm could have been reduced or avoided if you had sought suitable employment and (2) you did not exercise reasonable diligence in seeking such employment. If you do not make any effort at all to find suitable employment, the employer probably does not need to show that suitable jobs were available in your geographic area.

When it is clear an employer violated the law, defense attorneys immediately concentrate on mitigation. They will argue you did not use reasonable diligence in finding a substantially similar job. They’ll hire a damages expert to testify that based on your area’s economy, it is clear that you should’ve had a similar job in terms of job duties and pay by now.

Of course, you can prevent giving the defense such arguments by using “reasonable diligence.” This generally means that you are proactively seeking similar employment, e.g., registering with employment agencies, interviewing for open positions, applying for multiple jobs every week, discussing job prospects with friends and acquaintances, getting help with your resume, etc.

For an overview of how much your case may be worth, schedule a free and confidential consultation with Nashville employment lawyer Curt Masker by filling out the firm’s Inquiry Form here.

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Curt really came through for me when a previous employer had reported my job title and hire dates incorrectly, he got it corrected within 12 hours of speaking to him about it! I would recommend him for any of your legal needs as he is quite efficient! Renee
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Curt was very responsive from the beginning. He made it a very easy process, and he provided excellent guidance in the review of my severance agreement. Due, in part, to Curt's thoughtful suggestions in regards to changing some key language in the agreement that would protect both me and my former employer, they agreed to the changes. To protect yourself during job transition, a review of a severance agreement is a smart thing to do, and Curt will do an excellent job on your behalf. Thomas
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