Friday, January 23, 2009

Triple Damages Standard Under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law

I recently won a verdict at a bench trial (no jury) that included enhanced damages under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law. The Law allows an employee to recover up to three times the amount of earned unpaid wages. I am frequently asked what the standard is for awarding enhanced damages. The Law states that enhanced damages can be awarded if the employer withholds the money not as a result of a bona fide dispute. The Maryland Courts have interpreted this to mean that enhanced damages can be awarded if the employer withholds wages in bad faith. With any evidence of bad faith the issue should go to the jury.

How does this translate to a jury trial? Below is version of an instruction I suggested the Court give to the jury on this issue:


The Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law authorizes employees and former employees to recover up to three times the amount of unpaid wages if the withholding of payment was not the result of a bona fide or good faith dispute.
If you rule in favor of the Plaintiff on his claims under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, you must determine whether the Defendant's refusal to pay the Plaintiff all or part of his earned commission, bonus, or severance was not the result of a good faith dispute.
An employer may be liable for treble damages for all or any portion of the amount claimed.
If you find that the withholding of all or part of the commission, bonus or severance was not the result of a good faith dispute, you may award up to three times the amount of the commission, bonus or severance that was not the result of a good faith dispute.

3 comments:

Adit said...

Sir,

is there anywhere I could better understand the definiteion of a "bona fide" dispute where treble damages are concerned?

James Edward Rubin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Edward Rubin said...

There is. Check this entry (you will have to cut and paste in your browser) where I posted a legal brief and jury instruction on the definition of bona fide dispute:

http://mdemploymentlaw.blogspot.com/2007/11/triple-damages-under-maryland-wage.html