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Emotional Distress Damages May Be Recoverable For Retaliation

The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") covers the majority of workers in the United States and provides that workers are entitled to earn at least minimum wage and for those non-exempt workers, overtime compensation at a rate of one and one half times their standard rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any one work week.  The FLSA is one of the more employee-friendly labor laws, and was enacted to set minimum standards for workers in the work place.  

In order to help protect your rights, in addition to making it illegal to pay you less than minimum wage or fail to pay you the overtime compensation you are rightfully entitled to, it is also prohibited for your employer to retaliate against you for complaining about violations - whether those violations are proven or not.  Typically, damages that may be recovered in these types of lawsuits include back pay, liquidated damages and attorneys fees. However, in certain circumstances you may be entitled to emotional distress damages.

In a recent FLSA lawsuit, the worker and his wife lived in an apartment leased by an apartment company.  The plaintiff received discounted rent in exchange for him performing maintenance work around the apartment complex.  The worker filed a complaint for unpaid overtime wages against the apartment owner.  Just a few days after receiving the summons, the apartment complex sent the worker and his wife a notice to vacate the apartment for non-payment of rent and demanded he pay an amount equal to the offset he had been given over he course of his employment.  HIs wife then joined the complaint alleging retaliation and emotional distress.  The lower court found in favor of the employee on both of his overtime and retaliation claims.  However, the judge failed to instruct the jury on the availability of emotional distress damages.   On appeal, the appellate court found that it had be an error, and that employees may recover for emotional damages for retaliation.

Allowing for emotional distress damages is a positive step in addressing the real toll an employers retaliatory conduct takes on those employees who stand up against wage violations.

For more information, or if you believe that you have not been paid all the compensation you deserve, please contact the experienced Atlanta wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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