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Fifth Circuit Rejects EEOC's Position on Punitive Damages for Age Discrimination

    Client Alerts
  • January 11, 2017

Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed its earlier position that compensatory and punitive damages are not available to plaintiffs who allege violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Unlike Title VII, ADEA’s damages provisions are patterned after the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  In Vaughan v. Anderson Reg’l Med. Ctr., the Fifth Circuit rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s argument that subsequent amendments to the FLSA allow compensatory and punitive damage awards under ADEA as well.

The court also disagreed with the EEOC that claims based on retaliation for complaining about age discrimination should be considered separately from bias claims for purposes of the additional damages. Based on precedent from the 1970’s,  the Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs in age discrimination or retaliation claims are limited to remedies such as reinstatement or direct damages such as lost wages and front pay.

After the decision, the EEOC indicated its intent to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If accepted for review, this appeal could result in a nationwide standard for ADEA damages claims.