The state Supreme Court struck a severe blow to California’s civil rights commission today, barring it from awarding damages for emotional distress or other personal harm caused by job discrimination.
The 5-2 ruling eliminates the ability of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission to order damages for most victims of sexual or racial harassment, who commonly suffer no losses in salary but sue for the trauma and humiliation caused by employers’ mistreatment.
Victims could still go to court and sue for a full range of damages. But suits are available only to those who can afford a lawyer, and generally take far longer than the commission’s proceedings, which are prosecuted by a state lawyer.
The court said the commission is authorized only to order back pay and reinstatement for wrongfully fired employees and to require employers to prevent future discrimination.