Justices Exclude Front Pay from Damages Cap

June 5, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The US Supreme Court has set a precedent, increasing damage awards for discharged workers who claim their dismissal was a result of illegal discrimination, in a sexual harassment suit filed against chemical giant DuPont.

In a case involving a former Dupont employee whose damages award was capped at $300,000, but who claimed a further $800,000 in loss of future earnings, or front pay, the court ruled that the damages a damages cap imposed by federal race, sex and disability bias law does not limit front pay.

The ruling by Justice Clarence Thomas signifies a defeat for employers who argue that front pay awards are disproportionate to workers’ actual losses and urge the courts to include it under the compensatory and punitive damages cap to $300,000 in cases against large companies

Proponents of the inclusive cap contend that the civil rights act, which imposes the cap, was meant to limit runaway damage awards. By moving front-pay awards out from under the cap, this measure of restraint no longer functions.

Nevertheless, the justices ruled that allowing unlimited front-pay is in line with the law noting that in the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congress determined that victims of employment discrimination were entitled to additional remedies.

– Camilla Klein           editors@plansponsor.com