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Legal Memorandum: Recovering Damages for FMLA and Tort Claims

Issue: Under Minnesota law, if a plaintiff seeks to recover under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and a claim for constructive discharge or other state-law claim is also established, may plaintiff recover damages for both claims?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure, Workers Compensation Insurance
Keywords: Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA); Constructive discharge; Damages
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 298 F. Supp. 2d 1110; 505 N.W.2d 54; 479 N.W.2d 76; 138 F. Supp. 2d 987; 180 F.3d 1143
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 549.20, subd. 1(a), (b) (2008)
Date: 01/01/2009

Constructive discharge is a tort, and tort damages should therefore be available to plaintiffs alleging such claims.  See, e.g., Huyen v. Driscoll, 479 N.W.2d 76, 81 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991) (stating that constructive discharge is a “companion tort”).  Common-law tort damages include, among others, damages for past and future wage loss and loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, embarrassment, and mental anguish.  See Tyroll v. Private Label, 505 N.W.2d 54 (Minn. 1993) (workers’ compensation case listing various tort damages).  See also 24 Williston on Contracts §§ 66:2—66:6 (4th ed. 2008) (stating that an employee in a wrongful discharge case may be able to recover future wages (i.e., front pay); consequential damages, including loss of professional opportunities, costs of finding other employment, and relocation expenses; emotional distress damages; punitive damages; and attorneys’ fees).    

In appropriate cases, punitive damages may be awarded, even if the court awards liquidated damages under the FMLA.*FN1  See, e.g., Quitto v. Bay Colony Golf Club, Inc., No. 2:06-cv-286-ftM-29DNF *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 15, 2007) (concluding that there is no impermissible double recovery if the court awards liquidated damages under the FMLA and punitive damages under state law) (citing Snapp. v. Unlimited Concepts, Inc., 208 F.3d 928 (11th Cir. 2000) (finding that liquidated damages are compensatory in nature, not punitive)); accord Davis at *3 (allowing both liquidated and punitive damages because the case addressed two separate and distinct wrongs and therefore there was no […]

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