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Ruling may affect FLSA claims involving retaliation

A ruling recently issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals may make it more difficult for employers who are embroiled in lawsuits pertaining to Fair Labor Standards Act violations. Workers in Texas and the rest of the country who have been retaliated against by an employer may recover financial damages for emotional injury.

The recent case involved a couple who lived in an apartment complex that was leased by the wife and owned by the husband's employer. The couple received a discounted rent rate in exchange for the husband's maintenance work. The husband filed a lawsuit against the employer for unpaid overtime. Three days later, the couple was issued a notice to vacate their apartment for not paying rent. The employer demanded the total amount of rent deductions the wife had received while her husband was employed with the complex.

After the couple left the apartment, the wife joined her husband's suit claiming retaliation due to the demand of back rent. Although the jury sided with the plaintiffs, they did not award damages for emotional harm. Upon appeal of the ruling, the appeals court concluded that employees could seek financial damages for emotional distress due to retaliation.

Damages for emotional injury are usually only a factor in cases that involve actions such as terminations or demotions. The recent ruling may help to enhance the cost of the settlements in such cases as emotional injury damages are not easily quantifiable.

Lawyers who practice employment law may assist clients whose FLSA rights have been violated. If an employer has disobeyed wage and hour laws by denying overtime, the attorney may litigate to obtain the overdue payments as well as compensation for any retaliatory acts that occurred in response to a suit being filed.

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