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Florida retaliation suits are on the rise

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation charges in Florida and across the country have more than doubled since 2000.

In 2011, retaliation was the leading charge filed with the EEOC against Florida employers, comprising 39.9% of all discrimination claims. In the same year, the number of discrimination lawsuits filed in Florida’s federal courts also increased 6% from the previous year. Nationwide, such charges accounted for 37.4% of all charges filed with the EEOC.

Sources attribute a variety of factors for the increase in retaliation claims. More employees have access to information regarding the employment law protections available to them. In a sluggish economy, difficulty finding another job after a layoff or termination may cause other workers to resort to retaliation suits.

Another reason may be the probability of success: retaliation charges result in favorable outcomes for employees more than other types of discrimination suits. For example, a sample of 30 retaliation claims resolved in Florida’s federal courts in 2011 shows that 13 received employer verdicts, whereas 17 were resolved either by verdicts for the employee or settlements. The verdicts awarded employees amounts between $5,000 and $200,000; the settlements also included amounts up to $200,000.

In addition, punitive damages are frequently awarded in retaliation lawsuits. Under Florida law, punitive damages are typically awarded when a jury finds that the defendant was guilty of intentional misconduct or gross misconduct, based on clear and convincing evidence. In retaliation cases (not involving unreasonable financial gain), the amount of punitive damages awarded is typically 3 times the amount of compensatory damages received, up to a cap of $500,000.

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you and violated federal or state laws in your workplace, an attorney can help you prepare a claim. An attorney can also protect your rights in the event your employer retaliates against you for reporting unlawful conduct.

Source: Miami Herald, “Impact of retaliation claims on small businesses,” Lori Adelson, July 7, 2012