Pineda v. JTCH Apartments, LLC, No. 15-10932 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against JTCH alleging retaliation claims based on JTCH's demand of back rent after the filing of plaintiff's initial suit seeking unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. The jury found for plaintiff on both his overtime wage claim and his retaliation claim, awarding him $1,426.50 on the former and $3,775.50 on the latter. In post-trial rulings, the district court awarded plaintiff liquidated damages of $1,426.50 and awarded his counsel $76,732.88 in attorney’s fees, which was a 25% reduction from the amount requested. Both parties appealed. The court joined other circuits in deciding that the FLSA’s broad authorization of “legal and equitable relief” encompasses compensation for emotional injuries suffered by an employee on account of employer retaliation. In this case, a question asking whether plaintiff had proven any damages for emotional distress should have been submitted to the jury. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the wife's retaliation claim because the FLSA only prohibits discharging or discriminating against an “employee.” Because the court held that damages for emotional distress are available in an FLSA retaliation suit, and the district court’s ruling to the contrary was made prior to instructing the jury rather than after the verdict was rendered, the court remanded for a determination of whether defendant has proven such harm.