In a ruling that may be useful to Massachusetts employers, the Supreme Judicial Court in October made clear that puntive damages can only be awarded to discrimination plaintiffs when their employer’s conduct is “outrageous or egregious.” Punitive damages are, after all, available only to punish bad actors, not to permit windfall awards to discrimination victims who are generally entitled only to recover what they lost in wages and what they suffered from proven emotional injuries.
Apparently recognizing the subjective natures of the terms “outrageous” and “egregious” — who, after all can define either with more than a modicum of confidence — the court did what it often does. It created a list of factors that should be considered by judges and juries when evaluating whether to issue punitive damage awards. As always, the list is intended as a guideline only. Other factors that are relevant in particular cases can always be considered. The five punitive damages factors created by the SJC are: [Read more…]