What Damages Can an Employee Recover in a Lawsuit from an Arizona Employer?
If an employee or former employee sues, they may be entitled to many different types of damages, which could amount to a substantial amount. However, that is not always the case. The different kinds of damages an employee can win against an Arizona employer depend on the type of claim, and there are many different kinds of claims. An employee may assert they have not been paid earned wages or they may have been illegally discriminated against. They may have a defamation claim or a claim for wrongful termination based on the employee having “blown the whistle.” The type of claim determines the amount of damages that the employer may face.
Discrimination claims: In a discrimination case, an employee may recover general damages for emotional distress, damages for harm to reputation and punitive damages, but those amounts will be capped depending on the size of the employer. Additionally, lost wages - and in some cases - front pay could be awarded as damages. Attorney fees may also be awarded. Courts can order employees to be reinstated to their former position, and they may take other measures against the employer to prevent future discrimination.
Whistleblowing claims: The damages are similar to discrimination, but there are no caps on the amounts of damages.
Unpaid wages and commissions: When an employee asserts a claim for failure to pay wages or commissions, the employee can recover three times the amount of any unpaid wages or commissions. The employee may also recover attorney fees. However, the employee cannot recover damages for emotional stress or any other general damages – just their wages and possibly their attorney fees.
Overtime not paid: If an employee can prove they should have been paid time and a half for overtime hours, the employer may owe double the amount of any unpaid overtime wages, plus mandatory attorney fees. In other words, the employer will pay the employee’s legal bill.
Failure to pay minimum wages: When an employee files a claim based on the employer’s failure to pay any wage or at least minimum wage, the employee can recover twice the amount of any unpaid minimum wage plus a mandatory award of attorney fees.
FSLA violations: Failure to pay wages or overtime may open the employer up to a wage and hour audit from the U.S. Department of Labor. If they perform an audit, the DOL will look at all similarly situated employees, not just the employee who brought the claim, for both wage and hour violations, as well as employee mislassifications.
There are many other types of claims not discussed here, each with different types of damages that are potentially assessable against the employer. If claims have been filed against your company, consult with an employment lawyer.
About the authors: Kraig J. Marton is the chair of the employment law department at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He also assists employers in complying with the many state and federal employment laws.
Jeffrey A. Silence is an employment law attorney at Jaburg Wilk focusing his practice in employment law and FSLA compliance.