In the case of Davila v. Menendez, decided on June 10, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which controls all federal courts in Florida, clarified the respective roles of the jury and the district court in deciding issues relevant to claims arising under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims.
In the Davila case, the trial court entered a directed verdict in favor of the defendant employer on the issue of intentional, reckless or willful behavior, thus precluding an award of liquidated (double compensatory) damages. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the jury was first required to decide whether the defendant willfully violated the FLSA before the court could rule on liquidated damages.
The Eleventh Circuit agreed and held that the district court erred when it entered judgment as a matter of law that the defendant did not violate FLSA. The appellate court clarified that the district court was required to await the finding of the jury as to whether the defendant willfully or in good faith violated the law before assessing liquidated damages. The court further noted that a jury’s finding of willfulness will establish both the period of limitations (willful violations of FLSA allow for a three-year look back period whereas non-willful violations allow only a two-year look back) and the propriety of liquidated damages. A jury’s finding of willfulness mandates liquidated damages whereas a non-willful finding leaves the question of liquidated damages to the district court’s discretion.
Davila v. Menendez, __ F.3d __, 2013 WL 2460199 (C.A.11 (Fla.)).
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