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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Punitive Damages I have unpaid wages (almost 1 year of wages)

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Punitive Damages

I have unpaid wages (almost 1 year of wages) claim against my employer.

Can I claim punitive damages as well?
If yes, on what basis?
If not, why not?

- What are punitive damages and on what basis those gets awarded?
- How difficult to get those awarded? What an employee need to prove?
- How punitive damages go along with other penalties like waiting time, Liquidated damages etc? All can be claimed together?

Thanks !
Hello again,

Do you want me to answer, or do you prefer the answers of the other contributors who you have polled for opinions in the past?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Please go ahead...


 


When I need different opinion, i'll mention.

In Bureerong v. Uvawas, 922 F. Supp. 1450 (USDC CD CA 3/21/1996), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California writes:

  • Plaintiffs are clearly not entitled to punitive damages under any of their federal causes of action pled against the "manufacturers." However, Plaintiffs may be entitled to punitive damages for some of their state causes of action. Under Cal.Civil Code § 3294, "In an action for breach of an obligation not arising from a contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishment." Because Plaintiffs' claim for punitive damages against the "manufacturers" arises under California law, section 3294 governs substantively.

 

In plain English, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not provide grounds for punitive damages. Title 29 U.S.C. 216 provides for liquidated damages and overtime based upon minimum wage recovery, and that is the limit of the federal legal requirements. California law, on the other hand, permits punitive damages based upon prove of "oppression, fraud or malice." Civil Code 3294.

 

Oppression is subjugation, i.e., forcing someone to act or refrain from action based upon severe emotional distress or physical coercion. Fraud is the false representation of a material fact intended to induce justifiable and detrimental reliance. Malice is wanton and willful conduct intended to produce a wrongful result. That's what you must prove to get punitive damages in a wage claim dispute.

 

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

 

 

Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Could you pls answer my questions also as mentioned above?

Can I claim punitive damages as well?

A: If you can prove oppression, fraud or malice, then yes, otherwise no.

If yes, on what basis?

A: I don't know your case facts -- so, I can't possibly evaulate this question.

If not, why not?

A: See above.

- What are punitive damages and on what basis those gets awarded?

A: See Civil Code 3294. (n.b., exemplary damages = punitive damages). The code section is self explanatory.

- How difficult to get those awarded? What an employee need to prove?

A: Very difficult. It requires clear and convincing evidence. This is an overwhelming burden of proof.

- How punitive damages go along with other penalties like waiting time, Liquidated damages etc? All can be claimed together?

A: In general, punitive damages are used to try to qudruple other damages. Most courts will refuse to permit an award of punitive damages more than three times that of the underlying award. Punitives are claimed generally. No claim for punitive damages may state an amount. Civil Code 3295(e). Example:

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays judgment as follows:
1. For compensatory damages;

2. For exemplary damages;
3. For restitution of all monies due to Plaintiff and disgorgement of profits from
the unlawful business practices of Defendants;
4. For waiting time penalties pursuant to Labor Code §203;
5. For penalties pursuant to Labor Code §512 and 558;
6. For interest accrued to date;
7. For costs of suit incurred herein;
8. For attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Labor Code §§218.5 and 1194; and
9. For such other and further relief that the Court may deem just and proper.

Hope this helps.

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