Emotional Distress & Punitive Damages Unvailable in FLSA Retaliation Claims

12 January 2011 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog

The FLSA imposes minimum labor standards upon employers, including the payment of a minimum wage and overtime pay for covered employees. In order to facilitate enforcement, the FLSA includes an anti-retaliation provision which makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee who complains of wage and hour violations.

An issue in FLSA retaliation cases is whether a Plaintiff may recover damages for emotional distress and obtain punitive damages. The FLSA does not explicitly address the availability of compensatory or punitive damages. Although the Fifth Circuit has not addressed this particular issue either, it has held that FLSA and ADEA remedies must be interpreted consistently since the two acts contain similar damage provisions. The Fifth Circuit has also previously ruled that the ADEA does not provide for emotional distress or punitive damages in Dean v. American Security Ins. Co. Now a recent decision from the Western District of Texas holds that these types of damages are not available in FLSA retaliation actions either.

In Douglas v. Mission Chevrolet, a former employee of a car dealership filed suit claiming his employer terminated him after he complained of wage and hour violations at the dealership. He sought to recover emotional distress and punitive damages. The dealership moved to dismiss, arguing that neither emotional distress damages nor punitive damages are available remedies under the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provisions. Following Fifth Circuit precedent in Dean, the District Court granted the dealership’s motion and dismissed the damage claims in these words:

Because of the Fifth Circuit’s expressed desire for remedies under the ADEA and the FLSA to be interpreted consistently, and because the Fifth Circuit has held that emotional distress damages and punitive damages are unavailable under the ADEA, this Court holds that emotional distress damages and punitive damages are unavailable in an FLSA anti-retaliation claim.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services

Insights

Hatch Comments on DNC-Related Construction Projects in Milwaukee
14 June 2019
Milwaukee Business Journal
Bernard Quoted on Debt-Relief Settlement with ITT Tech Lender
14 June 2019
Wall Street Journal
Dodd and Daughter Profiled in Wisconsin Golf
13 June 2019
Wisconsin Golf
Brinckerhoff Comments on SCOTUS Ruling in Patent Case
11 June 2019
Intellectual Property Magazine
Review of 2020 Medicare Changes for Telehealth
11 December 2019
Member Call
2019 NDI Executive Exchange
14-15 November 2019
Chicago, IL
Association for Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting 2019
27-30 October 2019
Phoenix, AZ
Foley's Government Contracts Annual Update
16 October 2019
Liviona, MI