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What is Front Pay?

Front pay is an equitable remedy (type of “damages”) awarded in some employment claims involving wrongful termination or other kinds of workplace disputes. Front pay is meant to compensate employees in a way that would make them “whole”, so as if the termination never happened. 

Front pay is offered when the employee cannot be reinstated, either the position is filled or the position has been eliminated, in an effort to make up for the lack of reinstatement. Sometimes front pay is offered if it doesn’t make sense for the employee to return to work, due to the hostility or anger from the employer. 

What is the Difference Between Front Pay and Back Pay?

Front pay and back pay are different forms of compensation. Back pay would be compensation for any wages they would have earned if they were not fired. That means any wages they should have earned since the date they were fired and the day the court issued the judgment. 

While they seem very similar, there are key differences. For example, if an employee was awarded back pay and refused an unconditional offer and position that is similar enough to their previous position, then the employer has a right to end back pay.

But for front pay, the employee cannot be offered reinstatement or a similar position with the same employer for particular reasons. Since there is no employment opportunity to turn down, there is no chance of front pay being eliminated due to refusing reinstatement.

Is Front Pay Different from Future Earnings?

Yes, front pay and “future loss of earnings" relate to entirely different legal claims. Front pay seeks to compensate an employee for wrongful termination, while future loss of earnings is generally a compensatory award issued in personal injury claims when the victim is rendered unable to work or limited in their work future work potential.

For example, if an employee is discharged unfairly due to discrimination, instead of ordering the employer to reinstate the employee, the court may order the employer render the wages that the employee would have earned if not fired (front pay). 

On the other hand, future loss of earnings would be a more appropriate claim if the victim in an automobile accident becomes paralyzed and loses their job because they can no longer physically drive to work.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Claims Involving Front Pay?

If you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, you may wish to contact an employment lawyer immediately. Your attorney can help you file a claim in court or with an administrative agency which will process your complaint. In addition, a skilled attorney can gather physical evidence, interview witnesses, file paperwork, and represent your interests in court.

Photo of page author John Kirby

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-07-2017 12:23 PM PST

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