Determined whether money awarded for lost compensation during the period between judgment on an employment sexual harassment case and reinstatement of an employee constitute an element of compensatory damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, such that it is subject to the Act's statutory cap on such damages.
Sharon Pollard sued her former employer, the DuPont corporation, alleging a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. The District Court found in her favor, and awarded her $300,000 in compensatory damages - the maximum permitted under the statutory cap for such damages imposed by the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Pollard appealed, arguing that she should be awarded an additional amount for front pay, and that front pay is not subject to the statutory cap for compensatory damages. Front pay is forward-looking compensation for lost earnings because of, for example, discriminatory failure to promote.
The Supreme Court agreed with Pollard, ruling 8-0 that front pay awards in employment discrimination cases are not subject to the caps. The decision, written by Justice Thomas, confirms that courts have discretion to craft equitable remedies that will make plaintiffs whole -- for example, by awarding the full amount of lost front pay to someone who must leave a position because of a hostile work environment. If the employer is found to have discriminated, but reinstatement is unworkable, the Supreme Court's ruling clarifies that a court may award front pay until the person finds a comparable position. Pollard's case was remanded for calculation of her front pay award. Legal Momentum was amicus in this case with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.