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United States: Sixth Circuit Affirms Punitive Damage Award in favor of Undocumented Worker

May 22, 2021 (1 min read)

Stressing that non-backpay damages flowing directly from an employer’s illegal act —here the firing of an undocumented worker for filing a claim for workers’ compensation under Tennessee law—did not relate to a plaintiff’s immigration status, the Sixth Circuit Court of appeals affirmed a federal district court’s award of $1,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress, and a further award of $50,000 in punitive damages, finding neither award was barred by Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 122 S.Ct. 1275, 152 L.Ed.2d 271 (2002). The award of these damages did not require the employer to violate IRCA by paying “wages that could not lawfully have been earned” [Hoffman, 535 U.S. at 149]. Moreover, such an award of compensatory and punitive damages did not interfere with IRCA’s regulation of employment and Hoffman’s preclusion of backpay for unauthorized workers.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the co-Editor-in-Chief and Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law(LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Torres v. Precision Indus., 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 11932 (6th Cir. Apr. 22, 2021)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 66.03.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see

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