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How Do Courts Determine Front Pay Awards?


The primary component of any employment discrimination case is economic damages. This includes repayment of lost wages, typically referred to as back pay and front pay. These two types of damages are very different, especially in how they are calculated. Regardless, these types of damages often represent the largest part of a damages awarded in an employment discrimination case.

Claims for lost wages following wrongfultermination

If you are wrongfully terminated, it is possible that your next position will not pay as much as you previously earned. If that is the case, you have suffered two types of wage-related damages. First, you are entitled to lost wages from the time you were terminated or forced to resign. You may also be entitled to further damages if you accept a new position that pays less than the position from which you were terminated.

What is front pay and when is it awarded?

Front pay is compensation for lost wages from the time you obtain a judgment in court and your reinstatement into the position from which you were terminated. However, in many cases, either the employer will not offer reinstatement, or the employee has no desire to return to the position. This may be particularly true if the situation included claims of a hostile work environment. In that case, you may be awarded front pay in lieu of being reinstated to your old position.

How is front pay for reduced compensation determined?

In order to establish that your compensation has been reduced and the amount of time for which the front pay should be awarded, you must provide proof “with reasonable certainty.” To determine the actual value, the courts look to the value of the future earnings, including salary, bonuses, and benefits that you would have received but for the employer’s unlawful discrimination. There are several factors that courts usually consider.

  • your expected retirement date;
  • the amount of earnings, including salary and benefits, that you would have received between the time of trial and your projected retirement date;
  • the amount of earnings that you would probably have received from another employer until your retirement (this would reduce the front pay award);
  • the availability of other employment opportunities; and
  • the possibility of future wage increases and inflation.

If you have questions about whether to accept front pay in lieu of reinstatement, your Birmingham employment lawyers can help you make that decision. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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