"Front pay" or future economic damages ("lost future wages" being another way to put it) is an available remedy in employment discrimination and retaliation cases. Their determination is more complicated when the plaintiff is younger, has a long working career ahead and may not yet have a much-developed work history. But a plaintiff's "young age" does not preclude "front page" as the Sixth Circuit ruled recently in Varlesi v. Wayne State University, a pregnancy discrimination and retaliation case.
The plaintiff, Tina Varlesi, an excellent student working on her M.S. in Social Work at Wayne State, was subjected to pregnancy discrimination and eventually ejected from the graduate program rendering her unable to complete the requirements for her degree. Her dismissal from the program not only kept her from getting her degree, but she was unable to enroll in another graduate program and a previous job offer contingent upon her completion of the program evaporated. A jury awarded her $848,890 in damages including $200,000 in future economic losses or "front pay."
On appeal, Wayne State University argued, among many other things, that "any award of future damages would be too speculative as a matter of law due to Varlesi's young age." This argument, along with all the others advanced by the employer, was most emphatically rejected by the Sixth Circuit:
The defendant cites several cases of support for the proposition that Varlesi's young age necessarily rendered any future damages unavailable as a matter of law, but none of those cases actually holds (or even suggest) that her "young age" is determinative. And that is not the law. The law requires that, because future damages (a.k.a. front pay) are "often speculative," the District Court must have "flexibility and wide discretion" in crafting such a remedy. Shore v. Federal Express, 42 F3d 373, 378 (6th Cir 1994). And there are certain factors that must guide the award of future damages, including mitigation of damages, "the availability of employment opportunities, the period within which one by reasonable efforts may be reemployed, the employees working life expectancy, [and] the discount tables to determine the present value of future damages," among others. Roush v. KFC, 10 F3d 392, 399 (6th Cir 1993). Varlesi provided evidence about, and the District Court considered, these factors, including her mitigation efforts, her inability to enroll in other graduate programs after her failure at WSU, her job search and the prior job offer, and Bureau of Labor statistics.