Friday, March 08, 2013

Triple Damages for Overtime: an Update

  This post covers what I call "The Overtime Amendment" to the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law.  In 2010, the Maryland General Assembly added two words to the definition of wages under the Law. Wages now includes "overtime wages," which are eligible for triple damages.  Since the addition of those words, I have found only one reported decision from our State Court that addresses The Overtime Amendment (many Federal Courts have addressed it, a topic which I will cover in another post).  The case is Montgomery County v. Deibler.  

The issue in Deibler was whether the ability to earn overtime wages should be included in an employee’s “wage earning capacity” as defined by the worker’s compensation statute.   MD. CODE ANN., LAB. & EMPL. §9-615(a)(1).  The claimant suffered a knee injury that prevented him from working overtime.  To collect temporary disability benefits his post-disability wage earning capacity had to be less than his pre-disability wage earning capacity.  Montgomery County argued that the ability to earn overtime did not decrease the claimant’s wage earning capacity.

To divine the meaning of the phrase “wage earning capacity,” the Court looked at how the General Assembly defined wages throughout the Labor and Employment Article, including in the MWPCL (before the Overtime Amendment).  According to the Court, the meaning of the word “wage” in each of the statutes “includes a wide range of employment remunerations, including overtime compensation.”  423 Md. at 72 “[T]o read ‘wage’ more narrowly to exclude overtime compensation (as the County would have us do) would produce a ‘farfetched, absurd or illogical result[] which would not likely have been intended by the enacting body.’” Id., quoting, Kilom v. State, 394 Md. 168, 177, 905 A.2d 306, 311 (2006).  According to the Court, the Overtime Amendment clarified the existing definition of wages, which had always included overtime. 423 Md. at 70 n.6.  

The takeaway:  overtime is collectible under the Law and is subject to triple damages.

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