Texas Court of Appeals Affirms Large Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff in Age Discrimination Suit, Holding that Front Pay Damages Are Not Capped Under Texas Law

Defending a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit can be a complex endeavor. Although the same legal principles apply to similar cases, each case stands on its own facts.

Talking to a knowledgeable employment discrimination attorney about the particulars of a situation that your business is facing can be very helpful in assessing the overall risk of litigation – and the likelihood that the claimant will be successful if the case proceeds to trial.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas at Fort Worth, the plaintiff was a man who began working for the defendant employer when he was 22 years old. After the plaintiff was fired by the defendant at the age of 40 and replaced by a woman who was 29, he filed an age discrimination claim, alleging that the defendant had violated Texas Labor Code § 21.051 because it had fired him due to his age. The plaintiff sought lost wages, lost earning capacity, and compensation for mental anguish. The defendant answered that it would have taken the same action against the plaintiff absent the alleged impermissible motivating factor.

The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him damages of $864,420 plus over $50,000 in attorney fees. The defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the trial court’s findings on liability, that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the defendant to pay the plaintiff front pay, and that the Texas Labor Code capped the amount of monetary compensation available to the plaintiff for front pay and future mental anguish.

The Court of Appeals’ Decision

The appellate court affirmed. Although the court agreed that the evidence presented in the lower tribunal was, at times, conflicting in some respects, it held that the trial court’s findings on both liability and damages were supported by the record. The court of appeals also found that there was no cap on front pay or future mental anguish damages under the Texas Labor Code, agreeing with the plaintiff on this issue.

In so holding, the court pointed out prior case law to the effect that front pay issued under Chapter 20 of the Texas Labor Code does not comprise the type of “compensatory damages” that are capped under Texas Labor Code § 21.2585(d). Rather, the court agreed with the plaintiff’s characterization of the trial court’s front pay award as an “equitable remedy” rather than “compensatory damages,” observing that, in a case interpreting a similar federal statute, the United States Supreme Court held that front pay was not an element of compensatory damages under the federal statute’s cap.

Experienced Dallas Employment Discrimination Attorneys

If your business is facing the possibility of an age discrimination lawsuit or other employment litigation matter, the experienced business and employment law attorneys at Key Harrington Barnes are here to help. For an appointment to discuss your legal matter, call us at 214-615-7925. We serve business clients in and around Dallas, as well as elsewhere in Texas.

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