Labor and Employment

What Are Liquidated Damages in an FLSA Case?

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If you are a covered employee under federal and state wage and hour laws and you believe your employer violated those laws, you may be entitled to liquidated damages in addition to any lost wages or back pay claims you may have.

What Are Liquidated Damages?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and comparable state laws regulate wage rates, overtime pay and hours of work. If your employer violates the wage and hour laws or takes an adverse action against you for asserting your rights under those laws, among the remedies available to you is an award liquidated damages if you claim lost or unpaid wages, including those for minimum wage or overtime violations.

Liquidated damages are an award of damages that is similar to a penalty assessed against the employer for violating the law. Under the FLSA, an award of liquidated damages is equal to the amount of any award for lost or unpaid wages. For this reason, it is often referred to as "double damages" or "double back pay."

In order to recover liquidated damages, you must prove that your employer willfully violated the law. This is not necessarily a difficult burden. While courts are not required to award liquidated damages, most courts will presume that the employer's violation was willful and that the employee is entitled to liquidated damages unless the employer can show that it acted in good faith.

If a court awards you liquidated damages, it is unlikely that it will also award you prejudgment interest, which is an amount determined by the court or by law that you are entitled to receive for the loss of the use of money owed you in the form of back pay or lost wages. Courts that do award prejudgment interest usually will do so only when it did not award you the full amount of liquidated damages or when it denied your claim for liquidated damages.

Punitive Damages

Similar to liquidated damages is the remedy of punitive damages. Punitive damages are an award of money to the aggrieved employee when the employer's misconduct or violation of the FLSA is willful or intentional.

Only a few courts will award punitive damages in FLSA cases and then only in those cases where the employer retaliated against the employee for asserting rights under the FLSA.

The FLSA can be complicated, and an employment law attorney can best assist you with your questions and possible FLSA claims.

Questions for your Attorney

  • Can I choose among possible remedies under the FLSA?
  • Will a court award whichever relief is more, liquidated damages or prejudgment interest?
  • What kind of proof is needed to support a claim for punitive damages under the FLSA?
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