Court of Appeals Holds that Treble Damages for Unpaid Wages Are Mandatory Under the Wage Payment and Collection Law

On June 11, 2020, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Sivaraman v. Guizzetti & Associates, Ltd., 18-CV-1201, in which it considered, inter alia, whether the trial court erred by not awarding treble damages on a claim for unpaid wages under the District of Columbia’s Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 to -1312.

In addressing that issue, the Court considered the text of the statute which states that treble damages “shall” be awarded on a claim for unpaid wages. The Court concluded that the statute’s use of the word “shall” “makes clear that treble damages are mandatory, not discretionary, if requested.” And it further concluded that this interpretation is consistent with its precedent interpreting a predecessor statute.

The Court’s decision therefore establishes that a person who proves a claim for unpaid wages against an employer or former employer under the Wage Payment and Collection Law is entitled to an award of three times the amount of unpaid wages.