Employment Law Alert
Eleventh Circuit Rules that Courts Have Discretion to Award Liquidated Damages in FLSA Retaliation Cases
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held, in a case of first impression, that courts have the discretion to award liquidated damages in Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) retaliation lawsuits. Moore v. Appliance Direct, Inc., 708 F.3d 1233 (11th Cir. 2013). Unlike lawsuits for minimum wage or overtime wages, where such damages are mandatory absent a showing of reasonable good faith by the employer, employees in a retaliation case under the FLSA must show that the circumstances justify such an award.
The District Court held and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling that 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) contains two provisions: one dealing with the actual violation of wage and hour claims and a second dealing with retaliation claims. The Eleventh Circuit found that the second sentence in § 216(b), which allows such damages “as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of [the retaliation provision],” creates a separate, discretionary standard of damages for retaliation claims. “We therefore hold that the retaliation provision gives the district court discretion to award, or not to award, liquidated damages, after determining whether doing so would be appropriate under the facts of the case.”
The Court’s ruling will make it more difficult for employees to receive liquidated damages in retaliation cases than in wage/overtime cases. Whereas a plaintiff in a wage/overtime case under the FLSA will be entitled to liquidated damages absent a showing of reasonable good faith by the employer, it is the employee who must show that the circumstances justify such an award under an FLSA retaliation case. By: Claire Saady