Back Pay, Front Pay,
and Other Remedies
Once a worker proves that her employer has subjected her to discriminatory policies or practices, the court has available to it—in addition to awards of compensatory and punitive damages—an array of remedial provisions to make the worker “whole.” Shortly after enactment of Title VII, the Supreme Court established it as a duty of the trial court to apply these remedial provisions to fully effectuate the “make whole” doctrine: “[Title VII] is intended to make the victims of unlawful employment discrimination whole and … the attainment of this objective … requires that [workers] aggrieved by the consequences and effects of the unlawful practice be, so far as possible, restored to a position where they would have been were it not for the unlawful discrimination.” 1
The most common forms of court-ordered remedial relief include back pay, front pay, reinstatement, injunctive relief, and reimbursement of attorneys' fees.
Back pay is defined as the total loss of compensation suffered by a worker between the date of her subjection to an act of discrimination and the date of the trial of her subsequent sex discrimination suit. In a failure-to-hire claim, back pay is calculated by computing, for that period of time, the difference between what the worker would have earned if she had been hired and what she actually earned in other employment. In a failure-to-promote claim, back pay is the difference between what the worker would have earned in the new position if she had been promoted and the amount she actually earned