Kator Parks Weiser & Harris
Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, is a Washington, D.C. based law firm with a civil practice in employment law, and a special concentration on employment law involving Federal employees. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing workers before Federal courts, the MSPB, and the EEOC, in individual cases and class actions. Click here to learn more about KPWH.
Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, has extensive experience representing workers in class actions. Our attorneys have handled cases involving tens of thousands of workers, challenging the practices of employers in Federal courts, State courts, and before the EEOC. Find out more about our firm’s current and past class actions by clicking here.
New on KPWH Blog
KPWH Attorney Cathy Harris was interviewed on the subject of mental health and the legal system. Ms. Harris discussed the strain that sexual harassment places on victims, whether in the workplace or on a college campus. You can watch the interview with Jennifer Mann, LCSW by clicking here.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, please consider contacting KPWH for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Proving you were subjected to discrimination or retaliation is only the first step in obtaining relief. Once you have proven your case, it is critical to present evidence of your non-pecuniary damages for your mental pain and suffering. Non-pecuniary compensatory damages are one of the main ways that the EEOC can compensate you for an agency’s discriminatory actions. While having a doctor or other expert testify about your damages can be helpful, it is not necessary. The EEOC has stated that it focuses on three main factors in determining an award of non-pecuniary compensatory damages: (1) duration of harm; (2) extent of harm; and (3) consistency with amounts awarded in similar cases.
With respect to the duration of the harm, the focus is on the length of time that a complainant suffered from the harm, and not the duration of an agency’s discriminatory or retaliatory actions. The EEOC has explicitly noted that a complainant who has suffered from severe depression for one year has obviously endured more damage than a complainant who has suffered severe depression for two months. EEOC Notice No. N915.002 (July 14, 1992). Indeed, if you have subjected to a discriminatory action, for example sexual harassment, the impact of that will likely last long after the sexual harassment has ceased. In evaluating a claim for compensatory damages, the EEOC looks at the length of the period that a complaint has suffered and/or is likely to continue suffering harm as a result of an agency’s discriminatory actions. A doctor’s prognosis that the harm is likely to a certain amount of time into the future can be considered as evidence of the ongoing harm. It is also helpful to establish the time periods you have experienced different symptoms as a result of the discrimination or retaliation as not all symptoms are experienced for the same duration.
The severity or extent of the harm suffered by a complainant also impacts the award of compensatory damages. The EEOC has explained that the extent, nature, and severity of harm must be considered when determining an award for non-pecuniary damages. See Glockner v. Dep’t of Veterans Aff., EEOC No. 07A30105 (Sept. 23, 2004). EEOC cases explore how severe the harm was, and whether the harm was persistent and long-lasting, or transitory or intermittent. As the EEOC’s “Enforcement Guidance” puts it, when determining extent of harm, “consider, for example, whether the harm consisted of occasional sleeplessness, or a nervous breakdown resulting in years of psychotherapy.” This factor focuses on the individual symptoms experienced and the severity of each of those symptoms.
A diagnosis of anxiety or depression or other similar condition, or a exacerbation of a pre-existing diagnosis, would support an award of damages. But with or without a medical diagnosis, other types of harm also support an award of compensatory damages. Frequently observed symptoms of stress and/or anxiety in these types of cases are stress related physical ailments (such as headaches or stomach ailments), weight gain/loss, shortened tempers, frequent tearfulness or crying, panic attacks, distancing oneself from friends and family, sleeplessness, nightmares, and decreased energy. The details of how often you experience such symptoms or how severe the symptoms are can also impact an award. Testimony by friends and family about the observable changes in behavior can bolster a complainant’s testimony and further support an award for damages.
KPWH’s attorneys are experienced at developing cases in support of compensatory damages and helping you articulate the full extent of harm you have experienced as a result of discrimination, retaliation, and/or harassment. For a free consultation about your case, please contact us.
The “political question doctrine” traditionally provided that courts should not get involved in certain kinds of matters that are more appropriately decided by the elected branches of government. The U.S. District Court decisions in a case about the 2018/2019 government shutdown, brought by Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, demonstrate an expanding definition of the doctrine. The lawsuit about the shutdown was dismissed under an expanding political question doctrine, which seeks to avoid any matter that might have any implications for matters of partisan politics.
Kator, Parks, Weiser & Harris, PLLC, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of four federal employees who were required to work without pay during the 35-day government shutdown during December 2018 to January 2019. The suit alleged, among other things, that the government requiring employees to work without pay under threat of discipline or removal violated the Thirteenth Amendment prohibition against involuntary servitude, and that limiting employees’ rights to seek outside work unconstitutionally violated their Fifth Amendment protections for individual liberty and property.
The Federal District Court denied a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order, making clear in its Order that “the Judiciary is not just another source of leverage to be tapped in the ongoing internal squabble between the political branches.” When the Government moved to dismiss the claims as moot after funding was restored and the government re-opened, it argued that if the Court decided the claims, “it would require this Court to effectively place itself in the middle of a political dispute—namely, a dispute over the federal budgetary process, and how the government should operate when that budgetary process fails.” The Court agreed, holding that judicial restraint is advised “where the underlying dispute arises from a budgetary dispute involving ‘complex political choices.’” The Court sought to avoid involvement in a matter that might affect the politics of decision making between the Congress and the President.
Throughout the litigation of the shutdown case, the Government warned the Court against intervening in a “squabble” between the two political branches. Despite the constitutional harms alleged, the Court agreed, and shied away from claims that sought resolution of constitutional questions that resulted in real harm to the claimants. The questions before the Court were not about who should win in a budget battle between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue—the questions were about what constitutional rights are afforded federal employees and how those rights should be respected during a lapse in appropriations.
This may happen again in the three cases before the United State Supreme Court regarding President Trump’s financial records. In the cases of Trump v. Mazars, Trump v. Deutsche Bank, and Trump v. Vance, President Trump has fought tooth and nail to immunize himself from congressional oversight seeking financial records, and prevent a New York prosecutor’s investigation into alleged criminal activity by the Trump Organization. The defendants in the Mazars and Deutsche Bank cases are set to produce Trump financial records in response to Congressional subpoenas. In Vance, President Trump seeks to avoid prosecution, and the attendant subpoenas seeking financial documents.
These cases present very important foundational questions about the presidency, certainly requiring a constitutional interpretation: should the presidency come with nearly total legal immunity from prosecution or oversight for the incumbent?
In this instance, if the Supreme Court decides to defer to lower court decisions, it would mean President Trump loses, because the Mazars and Deutsche Bank defendants would then be required to produce Trump’s financial records. Likewise, the New York state prosecution could continue with its efforts to secure his financial records. This would mean the Trump Administration’s broad assertions of total immunity from prosecution and oversight are not to be ratified at this point.