The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently handed down two decisions analyzing the remedies available to successful retaliation plaintiffs under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), upon which the ADEA is modeled. The rulings illustrate how legal nuances can lead to different conclusions even when the underlying statutes are closely related.
In Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center, No. 16-60104 (5th Cir. Dec. 16, 2016), a three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed dismissal of an ADEA plaintiff’s claim for compensatory and punitive damages stemming from her allegedly retaliatory termination. Three days later, a different three-judge panel ruled in Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC, No. 15-10932 (5th Cir. Dec. 19, 2016), that successful FLSA retaliation plaintiffs are entitled to recover emotional distress damages.
Nuanced legal interpretations aside, these two rulings also serve as a reminder of the potentially high stakes employers can face for unlawful retaliation claims — whether brought under the ADEA, the FLSA, or any other federal anti-discrimination law such as Title VII — and the importance of taking proactive retaliation prevention efforts.
Members of the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC) can read more here.