SW Legal studies in Business

No Front Pay Award for Employee Sent to Prison
Description Appeals court held that when an employee is convicted of a crime, and blames the commission of the crime on discrimination he suffered at work, as a matter of law the employer is not responsible for the crime and cannot be responsible for future wages the employee would have earned.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Causation; Front Pay
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Shick had worked as a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Public Aid for four years when Yargus became his supervisor. The two had many conflicts. Shick was critical of Yargus's management style and said that she was insensitive to his disabilities. He complained to his union and the state, but was not given satisfaction. The day he visited an EEOC office to discuss his problem, where he was told it would take over a year before there would be any progress on his case, he robbed a convenience store with a sawed-off shotgun when going back home. Sentenced to ten years in prison, he sued the Department for sex and disability discrimination. The jury awarded him $5 million in damages; the judge reduced that to $300,000 and added $300,000 damages in front pay. The Department appealed.

Reversed. "Front pay is an appropriate remedy in Title VII cases when reinstatement is not available or not advisable because of workplace incompatibility. As a substitute for reinstatement, front pay is designed to compensate discrimination victims for the reasonable time it would take to find comparable employment elsewhere…. Here Shick could not have spent any more time with his employer due to his conviction, and obviously there is no chance that Shick would find any work, much less comparable work once he was incarcerated. Moreover … as a matter of law, the Department's actions were not the proximate cause of Shick's conviction and incarceration. … Accordingly, Shick cannot recover from the defendants for damages resulting in his conviction and incarcertaion whether in the form of front pay, pain and suffering, or emotional distress." There will be a new trial on the issue of whether there was sex discrimination that could result in damages.

Citation Shick v. Illinois Department of Human Services, 307 F.3d 605 (7th Cir., 2002)

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