No double recovery under federal and state law

Good news for government employers: Employees who sue for discrimination under both the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) don’t get to collect double damages.

For all practical purposes, the federal cap, which is based on the size of the employer, limits how much employees can receive for their suffering.

Recent case: Leola Bradshaw sued the School Board of Broward County for sexual harassment by her supervisor. She filed her claim under Title VII and the FCRA. A jury awarded her $500,000 for emotional distress.

Title VII caps such damages at $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees. The FCRA caps damages at $100,000 if the employer is a government subdivision.

The trial judge reasoned Bradshaw should get $400,000—an amount equal to both caps added together. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It concluded that Florida’s legislature had agreed to hold government units liable for up to $100,000 if there was no federal remedy—not $100,000 on top of a federal award for the same act of discrimination. (Bradshaw v. School Board of Broward County, No. 06-13182, 11th Cir., 2007)