ADEA remedies and damage caps

1. Available damages

The ADEA provides that a prevailing plaintiff is entitled to recover:

  1. Equitable relief (both declaratory and injunctive), including reinstatement and reinstatement plus promotion;
  2. Actual damages, including back pay, front pay, and other compensatory damages; and
  3. Liquidated damages, in an amount equal to lost wages if the violation was “willful.”

Whether or not the employer’s action was “willful” is something for the jury to decide.

2. Damages not available

Although not entirely clear, it appears that emotional distress damages are not available under the ADEA. Additionally, the ADEA does not authorize an award of punitive damages.

3. Attorney’s fees

Pursuant to federal law, a prevailing plaintiff is automatically entitled to attorney’s fees. A prevailing defendant may recover attorney’s fees only upon a showing that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless.