Emotional Distress Damages of $5,000 Awarded in Wage Retaliation Case

In Nana v. Le Viking LLC d/b/a Bistro Chez Lucienne, 17-CV-928, 2019 WL 3244181 (SDNY July 19, 2019), the court, inter alia, held that plaintiff was entitled to $5,000 in emotional  distress damages on his retaliation claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law.

The court noted that “[a]lthough the FLSA and NYLL do not expressly make available emotional distress damages, courts in this District have permitted emotional distress damages for retaliation claims under the FLSA and NYLL.” Id. *4.

Plaintiff requested $30,000 in emotional distress damages, which the court noted “appears excessive in light of what appears to be a claim on the lower end of the so-called ‘garden variety’ form of emotional distress.” Id.

Magistrate Judge Wang elaborated:

Plaintiff’s only evidence of emotional distress is his declaration that he suffered from sleep issues and that he felt uncomfortable when he walked near his old place of employment. (ECF 82 ¶ 34). At the inquest hearing, Plaintiff admitted that there was nothing in the record to support anything other than garden-variety emotional distress. June 13, 2019 Conf. Tr. at 3:25-4:3. This stands in stark contrast to situations where courts have awarded lesser amounts than what Plaintiff is seeking. See, e.g., Greathouse, 2015 WL 7142850, at *3-4 (awarding $10,000 where defendant threatened plaintiff with gun); Perez v. Jasper Trading, Inc., No. 05-CV-1725 (ILG) (VVP), 2007 WL 4441062, at *9-10 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 17, 2007) (awarding $15,000 where defendant threatened to report plaintiff to immigration authorities). Accordingly, the Court recommends that Plaintiff be awarded $5,000 in emotional distress damages. See Miller-Rivera v. Eddie Jr.’s Sports Lounge, Inc., No. 17-CV-0603 (LDH) (SMG), 2018 WL 3581735, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 2, 2018), adopted by 2018 WL 3581698 (E.D.N.Y. July 25, 2018) (awarding $5,000 where Plaintiff suffered “mild” distress and offered no corroborating evidence).