October 1995

Workplace Labor Update - Damages Limited Under Maryland Wage Law – October 1995

2 min

Employers should take note of a recent decision of Maryland’s highest court examining the State’s wage payment law. Maryland wage law permits an employee to sue an employer for unpaid wages, and to recover up to three times the amount of unpaid wages, plus attorneys’ fees as damages. The Maryland Court of Appeals recently held that where an employer timely pays an employee’s wages for work performed prior to termination, the employee may not collect treble damages for future wages. Battaglia v. Clinical Perfusionists, Inc., 338 Md. 352, 658 A.2d 680 (1995).

On October 3, 1991, Dorothy Battaglia was hired by Clinical Perfusionists, Inc. (CPI) as an on-call auto- transfusion technician. At that time, Battaglia signed an employment contract, which provided for an annual salary of $17,000, payable in biweekly installments. On November 7, 1991, CPI fired Battaglia, and paid her for the hours she worked, along with two weeks severance pay.

Battaglia filed a lawsuit, claiming that CPI violated her employment contract by firing her prematurely before her contract was up. She further alleged that under the Maryland wage law, she was entitled to treble damages on the future wages she would have received had her employment continued. A jury awarded Battaglia the amount of wages she would have received had her employment continued as contract damages. However, the trial judge held that Battaglia was not entitled to treble damages for violation of the wage laws. Battaglia appealed.

On appeal, Battaglia argued that she was entitled to treble damages on the future wages CPI had not paid. The Maryland wage payment law states that employees are entitled to payment for work performed prior to termination. The appeals court held that CPI had not violated the law because it had paid Battaglia for all work that she performed before the termination of her employment. The Maryland wage law was intended to address failure to pay wages for work the employee had already performed, and not to encompass future services said the court. Accordingly, Battaglia was entitled only to damages for breach of contract, and not entitled to the potential treble damages available under the Maryland wage law.