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In the absence of express statutory language or any further legislative guidance, punitive damages are not available under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951 et seq.
Appellant Louise Hoy was employed by appellee Village Super Market, Inc. d/b/a Shop-Rite of Easton (Shop-Rite) as the only female meat wrapper in the store's meat department. Appellant filed suit against appellees, employer and manager, for violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951, alleging unlawful discrimination in violation of the Act, and an intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury found in favor of appellant and awarded her compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney fees. The trial court granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and struck the punitive damage awards. The intermediate appellate court affirmed denial of punitive damages, finding that punitive damages were not recoverable under the Act. Appellant sought review.
Could punitive damages be recovered under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Act), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951?
The Court found appellant was not entitled to punitive damages. The Act was created to foster the employment of all people. 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 952. According to the Court, the Act contemplated remedial measures to make appellant whole. Because the Act did not specifically provide for punitive damages, and punitive damages were intended to punish, they were properly stricken. The Court further held that appellant was not entitled to costs and attorney fees because such an award was left to the trial court's discretion. The Court found appellant did not prove intentional infliction of emotional distress, because the conduct was not so outrageous as to be intolerable and there was no retaliation against her.