Two 5th Circuit rulings recently addressed damages in claim brought under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-6-1-4, a three-judge panel found that the plaintiff was not entitled to any damages for pain and suffering as a result of her termination for alleged age discrimination. The Court held that the 1977 amendments to the FLSA did not expand the damages available under the ADEA. The damages provisions of the ADEA, which was adopted in 1967, were borrowed from the FLSA. The 1977 FLSA amendments said employers who violate the law’s retaliation provisions “shall be liable for such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate.”
The 5th Circuit held that pain-and-suffering damages are not available under the ADEA in Dean v. Am. Sec. Insurance Co. The only other circuit to rule on this issue has been the 7th Circuit, mirroring the 5th Circuit. No other federal appeals court has considered the issue.
However, in Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-10932, a three-judge panel ruled that workers suing for retaliation under the federal wage-and-hour law may recoup emotional damages, and ordered a new trial for the plaintiff. In doing so, the 5th Circuit upheld a jury verdict of over $5,000 awarded to the Plaintiff for his employer’s failure to pay overtime when he worked at the apartment complex in exchange for discounted rent. The Plaintiff claimed that the incident led to marital issues and anxiety, and that the jury should be instructed on damages for emotional harm. The Court agreed, following the 7th Circuit ruling in 1990 in Travis v. Gary Community Mental Health Center and the 2004 ruling by the 6th Circuit in Moore v. Freeman, which are the only two other appeals courts to address the issue. Although the age bias law does closely track the FLSA, the court found that the age bias law includes additional language that the court said distinguishes the two laws regarding damages.