Monday, June 23, 2014

Q. Does the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law permit triple damages for overtime? (Update: Yes)

A.  I believe that the answer is yes (and wrote about why I think that is case).  A case pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals will likely provide a final answer.  The case is Muriel Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc.   The Court in Peters agreed to review the following three questions:

1) Are overtime wages recoverable under the MD Wage Payment and Collection Law (MWPCL)?

2) In a bench trial, is it an abuse of discretion to fail, without explanation, to award treble damages under the MWPCL where there is no claim of bona fide dispute?

3) Should any award of up to treble damages under MWPCL be made in addition to the award of unpaid wages?

The above questions suggest that the trial court awarded overtime wages but did not award the triple damages permitted by the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (but did not explain why).  The Court of Appeals held oral argument on April 29, 2014.  The employer did not participate (probably because it did not have the money to retain a lawyer).  The Court of Appeal had many questions about how it could award triple damages in the absence of a trial court finding that the overtime wages were withheld in bad faith.  To me, that suggests the Court will remand the case back to the trial court to decide that issue and explain the rationale for its decision.
8/19/14 -- Update the Court ruled that triple damages are recoverable for unpaid overtime and remanded the case to the Circuit Court to decide whether to award such damages in this case.

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