A recent court case has added a new dimension to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) retaliation lawsuits — awards for lost overtime wages on top of regular pay during the period following termination.

In the case of Pagan-Colon v. Walgreens of San Patricio Inc., the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals awarded the plaintiff both lost wages and estimated overtime pay in a case involving wrongful termination over the plaintiff's use of FMLA leave for medical reasons. The award of overtime and regular pay was justified under the FMLA clause allowing awards for "other compensation denied or lost."

The appeals court affirmed a district court's earlier reasoning that, based on past on-the-job patterns, the plaintiff would've worked 6.5 hours of a overtime a week during the 125 weeks between termination and the judgment, bringing the total for lost overtime pay to $20,637.

The circuit court's opinion read:

Although we have not previously addressed the issue, we see no reason why overtime pay should not be included in an award of backpay under the FMLA. The FMLA provides that an employee may recover 'any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost ․ by reason of the violation.'  29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1)(A)(i)(I). Overtime certainly falls into the category of 'other compensation.'   This conclusion is consistent with the way in which damages are calculated for violations of other employment laws, as 'back-pay awards often include payment for overtime work that an employee would have performed but for her employer's violation of employment laws.'

This may be the first award, or one of the first, of lost overtime wages in an FMLA lawsuit, but prior court decisions have awarded such pay in discrimination cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Employers and human resource professionals, stay up to date and in compliance with all relevant leave laws by obtaining a copy of Personnel Concepts' informative FMLA Regulatory Updates Compliance Kit