United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
C. KEESLER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
MATTER IS BEFORE THE COURT on “Defendants'
Motion In Limine” (Document No. 103) and
“Defendants' Motion To Bifurcate” (Document
No. 104) filed October 22, 2017. The parties have consented
to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b), and immediate review is appropriate. After careful
consideration of the record, the parties' written
submissions, and oral argument at a hearing on October 24,
2017, the undersigned will grant Defendants'
motion in limine, and deny the motion to
bifurcate as moot.
Motion In Limine” seeks “to prohibit Plaintiff
Anne Baclawski, and anyone testifying or arguing on her
behalf, from presenting any testimony, evidence, and/or
arguments to the jury regarding evidence related to
Defendants' potential liability for, and amount of,
punitive damages.” (Document No. 103, p.1). Defendants
“anticipate that Plaintiff will seek an award of
punitive damages at trial, ” and the First Amended
Complaint states that based on Defendants' alleged
retaliation, Plaintiff is entitled to “compensatory
damages, emotional distress damages, liquidated and statutory
damages, punitive damages, pre-judgment interest,
post-judgment interest, attorneys' fees and costs, and
other compensation” Id. See also (Document No.
be addressed below, the Court is not convinced there will be
a retaliation claim to present to a jury; nevertheless, even
if Plaintiff's retaliation claim proceeds, the
undersigned will respectfully decline to allow Plaintiff to
seek punitive damages.
contend that punitive damages are not available under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and therefore,
“Plaintiff should be prohibited from presenting any
evidence as to liability for, or amount of, punitive
damages.” (Document No. 103, pp.1-2). By their motion
in limine and motion to bifurcate,
Defendants argue in the alternative that there should be no
argument, testimony, or evidence about punitive damages until
a second phase of a bifurcated trial, if necessary. (Document
Nos. 103 and 104). In support of their position, Defendants
identify the following caselaw from within the Fourth
Keene v. Rinaldi, 127 F.Supp.2d 770, 772 (M.D. N.C.
2000) (noting that liquidated damages can be recoverable
under the FLSA, but punitive damages cannot be recovered);
Walker v. Pettit Constr. Co., 605 F.2d 128, 130 (4th
Cir. 1979) (“The Fair Labor Standards Act, of course,
makes no provision for the recovery of punitive
damages.”); Orshal v. Bodycote Thermal Processing,
Inc., No. 1:15CV674, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97203, at *10
(M.D. N.C. July 26, 2016) (recognizing that “courts in
this district have found that punitive damages may not be
recovered for a violation of the FLSA.”); Lanza v.
Sugarland Run Homeowners Ass'n, 97 F.Supp.2d 737,
740 (E.D.Va. 2000) (noting that the FLSA does not permit an
award of punitive damages, and that the Act “is
designed to compensate the aggrieved employee, not punish the
offending employer.”); Jordan v. Gobo, Inc.,
No. 6:09-cv-00059, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42778, at *26
(W.D.Va. Apr. 30, 2010) (“Punitive damages are not
permitted under the FLSA.”).
(Document No. 103, pp.1-2).
opposition, Plaintiff notes that section 216 of the FLSA
provides for “legal and equitable relief” for
unlawful FLSA retaliation. (Document No. 109, pp.1-2) (citing
29 U.S.C. § 216(b)). More fully, the FLSA states:
Any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or
section 207 of this title shall be liable to the
employee or employees affected in the amount of
their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime
compensation, as the case may be, and in an
additional equal amount as liquidated damages. Any
employer who violates the provisions of section 215(a)(3) of
this title shall be liable for such legal or
equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate
the purposes of section 215(a)(3) of this title,
including without limitation employment,
reinstatement, promotion, and the payment of wages lost and
an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.
29 U.S.C.A. § 216 (b). (Emphasis added).
reasoning from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Plaintiff contends that
punitive damages are included in the “legal and
equitable relief” allowed by the FLSA. (Document No.
109, p.2) (citing Marrow v. Allstate Sec. Investigative
Servs., Inc., 167 F.Supp. 838, 841 (E.D.Pa. 2001) and
Travis v. Gary Community Mental Health Ctr., Inc.,
921 F.2d 108, 111-12 (7th Cir. 1990)). Plaintiff declines to
specifically address the authority cited by Defendants, but
acknowledges that the Fourth Circuit “has not ruled
upon the recovery of punitive damages for an FLSA retaliation
claim” and that the Eleventh Circuit has held that
punitive damages are not available under the FLSA.
Id. (citing Randolph v. ADT Sec. Servs.,
Inc., 2012 WL 2234362 (D.Md. June 14, 2012) (citing
Snapp v. Unlimited Concepts, Inc., 208 F.3d 928,
933-39 (11th Cir. 2000)).
concludes that this Court should also adopt the reasoning in
Marrow, which followed Travis, and thus
ignore the rulings in Snapp, Walker, and
other district courts within the Fourth Circuit. (Document
No. 109, pp.2-3). Moreover, Plaintiff's counsel at the
hearing seemed to suggest that the Court should allow the
claim for punitive damages to proceed, ...