WA State Human Rights Commission: Damages for Humiliation & Suffering

Under Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) laws, what is the maximum amount of damages that an appointed administrative law judge can award to an employment discrimination claimant for humiliation and mental sufferingHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding.)



Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital statussexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creednational originhonorably discharged veteran or military status; HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status. See RCW 49.60.230; RCW 42.40. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.


The WSHRC is the state agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Washington Law Against Discrimination. The WSHRC works to prevent and eliminate discrimination through complaint investigation, alternative dispute resolution, and education, training and outreach activities.


One of WSHRCs powers is "[t]o receive, impartially investigate, and pass upon complaints alleging unfair practices as defined in th[e] [Washington Law Against Discrimination]." RCW 49.60.120(4). Accordingly, the relevant law is found under RCW 49.60.250, and it states as follows:

Hearing of complaint by administrative law judge—Limitation of relief—Penalties—Order—Arbitration.

. . . 

(5) If, upon all the evidence, the administrative law judge finds that the respondent has engaged in any unfair practice, the administrative law judge shall state findings of fact and shall issue and file with the commission and cause to be served on such respondent an order requiring such respondent to cease and desist from such unfair practice and to take such affirmative action, including, (but not limited to) hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employees, with or without back pay, an admission or restoration to full membership rights in any respondent organization, or to take such other action as, in the judgment of the administrative law judge, will effectuate the purposes of this chapter, including action that could be ordered by a court, except that damages for humiliation and mental suffering shall not exceed twenty thousand dollars, and including a requirement for report of the matter on compliance. Relief available for violations of RCW 49.60.222 through 49.60.224 shall be limited to the relief specified in RCW 49.60.225.

RCW 49.60.250(5) (emphasis added).


Under WSHRC laws, the maximum amount of damages that an appointed administrative law judge can award to an employment discrimination claimant for humiliation and mental suffering is $20,000. This limitation only applies to arbitration proceedings through the Washington State Human Rights Commission; it does not apply to plaintiffs that litigate employment discrimination claims through other avenues such as Washington State or federal courts.


If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

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