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A Better Partnership


Jun 2001
June 05, 2001

Front Pay Awards in Title VII Actions Are Not Subject to the Statutory Cap

The risk of a runaway jury verdict in employment discrimination and harassment suits often inspires defendants to settle cases, even when they're sure they could win. In 1991, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act and placed a cap on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages a plaintiff could recover. "Front pay" is one element of recoverable damages, representing compensation lost during the time between a court judgment and reinstatement or, more commonly, payment in lieu of reinstatement. Until now, employers accused of wrongdoing could rely on consistent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that front pay awards were compensatory and therefore governed by the statutory cap. On June 4, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court altered the playing field on this point. In an 8-0 decision, the Court ruled that front pay damages for workers wronged on the job cannot be limited to the statutory cap. Pollard v. E. I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co. This means that a plaintiff in a Title VII case may now obtain separate, uncapped awards for back pay and benefits, front pay, and attorneys fees. In addition, depending upon the number of people employed by the defendant, the jury can award up to $300,000 more for punitive damages, emotional pain and suffering, and other compensatory damages.

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