TRIAL COURT HAS DISCRETION NOT TO AWARD TREBLE DAMAGES AGAINST AN EMPLOYER THAT FAILS TO PAY WAGES
By Kent Berk on April 12th, 2012 in BLOG, EMPLOYMENT DISPUTES, employment law, WAGES
In D’Amico v. Structural I Company, the Arizona Court of Appeals recently held that a trial court has discretion not to award treble damages against an employer that fails to pay wages in accordance with A.R.S. § 23-355(A). An employer may lawfully withhold wages under the statute if the employer has a reasonable good faith dispute as to the amount of wages due. But in D’Amico, the jury found that the employer only had a reasonable good faith dispute as to $229,000 of the $753,000 worth of wages found to be owing. Thus, D’Amico argued that she was entitled to treble damages on the $500,000 or so of wages the jury found were due and owing and for which there was no good faith dispute. Despite their being no good faith dispute as to those unpaid wages being due, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err as a matter of law by not awarding treble damages. The Court of Appeal’s rationale was simply based on the language of the statute, which does not make an award of treble damages mandatory. However, the Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court for what appears to be a reconsideration of D’Amico’s request for treble damages. The Court of Appeals found the trial court’s stated reasons for not awarding treble damages to be flawed and provided some factors the trial court may find relevant to its determination.