Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Triple Damages Under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law

I frequently represent salespeople seeking unpaid commissions under the Maryland Wage Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. I have written about this area of the law many times.

One important part of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law is the provision that allows the Court to award triple damages if the plaintiff successfully proves his or her claims. If the jury finds that an employer withheld earned commissions “not as a result of a bona fide dispute,” the jury may award the employee an amount not exceeding 3 times the wage. The Court may then also award reasonable counsel fees and other costs. Under the provision, a claim for $25,000 may represent $75,000 or more of potential liability.

What does a plaintiff need to prove to get triple damages?

8 comments:

UnpaidNow said...

What has been your experience in litigating non-payment of wages? Do you often see employees (plaintiffs) recovering legal fees? How often do you see jury awards of double or triple the unpaid wages?

Gil said...

I understand about exempt employees who terminate employment being able to collect accrued vacation time, my questions is with regard to exempt employees having acrued vacation time taken away at the end of the year as a part of the "use or loose" policy. I wouldn't mind this if I were compensated for the lost hours, but I feel like my company is punishing me for managaments inability to schedule so I am able to take time off...

James Edward Rubin said...

No case has yet challenged us or loose policies. After the Catapult decision there is a strong argument that if such policies result in a forfeiture of earned wages, they are unlawful under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. Again, there is no direct precedent on the issue. Because of that, you should consult with an attorney before taking any action.

James Edward Rubin said...

As for recovering legal fees, unpaid wages, and triple damages, of course, it all depends. It depends mostly on the strength of the plaintiff's case. Do you have the facts to prove you are owed wages? If you do, many other factors come into play, include the employer's solvency and resources.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary of the treble damages provision under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. Scenario and Questions for you....

Scenario:

John Q Smith's employment for an employer in the State of Maryland is governed by an employment agreement and the employment agreement calls for arbitration.

The company lays off John Q Smith and does not agree to pay out certain bonus, which John Q Smith believes that he is due under the employment agreement. Because John Q Smith will not sign a release, since this would force him agree to the company's position that no bonus is due, the company does not pay his severance equal to a year's pay and forces John Q Smith to engage in arbitration proceedings.

Before the effective date of his lay off John Q Smith on multiple occasions attempts to get the company to explain why the company does not agree that the bonus is due, but the company stonewalls these attempts - even those that John Q Smith frames as notices under the employment agreement's conflict resolution sections.

Questions:

Clearly wages has been withheld.

In this scenario is the company liable for treble damages under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law?

Is the company's refusal to explain its refusal of bonus payment and its subsequent withholding of the severance payment a sign of bad faith (raising question about the existence of a bona fide dispute)?

What are the relationships between arbitration and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law?

James Edward Rubin said...

Predicting whether a Judge, Jury, or Arbitrator will award treble damages is impossible in the abstract. I have won them when I thought I would not; and lost them when I thought I should have won them. As for arbtiration, click the arbitration category on the right hand side of this blog and take a look at my write of (the awful decision in) Holloman v. Circuit City.

Unhappy Worker said...

My employer took away 100 hours of accrued vacation. It wasn't the "use it or lose it" scenario. They released a new handbook stating that we earned fewer vacation hours per year, so they deducted the time that I had already accrued to meet the allotted amount stated in the handbook. Can they do this? I had already earned these hours and I never signed the handbook. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

James Rubin said...

Unhappy worker, I would need to see the old and new handbooks to give meaningful advice. Feel free to give me a call 3017607914.