Federal Versus Arizona State Wage Statutes: The Higher Damages Takes It

Federal Versus Arizona State Wage Statutes: The Higher Damages Takes It

The U.S. District Court for Arizona recently held in a case considering employee statutory wage claims made under both federal and state statutes that employees cannot recover damages under both but will rather recover under the statutory scheme resulting in the higher damages.[1]  This is because damages cannot be recovered when they are “engulfed by larger statutory awards.”[2]

In that case, plaintiff Ignacio Xalamihua was employed by GGC Legacy Janitorial Services, LLC from October 31, 2022, through November 12, 2022, when he quit because he had not been paid for his hours worked.[3] Plaintiff was hired as a full-time night janitor at a wage of $17.00. He worked 60 hours for defendants but alleged he received no payment.[4] Plaintiff filed suit in the federal court in Arizona against his former employer, GGC Legacy Janitorial Services, LLC, and its owner, alleging federal claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)[5] for unpaid minimum wages, as well as state law claims under the Arizona Minimum Wage Act (AMWA)[6] for unpaid minimum wages and under the Arizona Wage Act (AWA)[7] for unpaid wages.[8]

For plaintiff to state a claim under the FLSA, plaintiff must establish that his wages fell below the statutory minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.[9] To state a claim under the AMWA, plaintiff must show he was not paid Arizona’s statutory minimum wage of $12.80 per hour.[10] To succeed on a claim under the AWA, plaintiff must prove he was not paid in a timely fashion.[11] In addition, contrary to the FLSA and AMWA, under the AWA, when a claim is for the complete failure to pay wages, liability will not stand against the individual owners, officers, or directors of a corporation.[12]

The plaintiff sought default judgment in the amount of $3,060, plus prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs, after defendants failed to respond to the complaint or otherwise appear. The court found plaintiff established all three of his wage claims and was entitled to damages.[13] The court then considered the plaintiff’s damages under each Act based on the statutory schemes. “The general rule of law is that upon default the factual allegations of the complaint, except those relating to the amount of damages, will be taken as true.”[14]

First, the court considered plaintiff’s damages under the FLSA. Under the FLSA, an employer who violates the Act is liable for the unpaid minimum wages plus an additional equal amount as damages.[15] The court found plaintiff was entitled to a total of $870 in liquidated damages under the FLSA—representing 60 hours worked times the $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage, which is $435 plus the additional $435 under the Act.[16]

The court next considered plaintiff’s damages under the state statutes, first the AMWA, which provides for interest and “an additional amount equal to twice the underpaid wages.”[17] Plaintiff’s unpaid wages were $768 (60 hours times the $12.80 Arizona minimum wage).[18]  After adding the additional amount required under the act, twice the unpaid wages or $1,536, plaintiff’s total damages under the AMWA were $2,304.[19]  Finally, under the AWA plaintiff’s damages were $1,020 (60 hours times his wage of $17 per hour), plus, the AWA provides for treble damages making the total damages $3,060.[20]

The court found, “[p]laintiff is entitled only to the maximum amount of damages under either the state or federal statutes.”[21] The court granted plaintiff’s motion for entry of default judgment against both defendants and awarded plaintiff $3,060, the damages from the AWA claims, which was higher than both AMWA and FSLA claims, plus post-judgment interest against defendant GGC Legacy Janitorial Services LLC.[22] Because the award was under the state statutes, which engulfed the FSLA claim, and only the state AMWA allowed liability against an individual corporate owner in a case of complete nonpayment of wages, the court found the owner to be jointly and severally liable with GGC for $2,304 of the total award—the amount of damages under the AMWA.[23]



Although an employee can bring wage claims under both federal and state wage statutes, the employee will not be entitled to both liquidated (federal) and treble (state) damages, but instead will be entitled to only the higher of the two. In addition, while individual corporate owners may not be liable for treble damages under Arizona’s timely payment of wage statute, they can still be held liable with the corporation for the lower amount under the state’s minimum hourly wage statute.



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[1] Ignacio Xalamihua v. GGC Legacy Janitorial Servs. LLC, 2023 WL 8891393 (D. Ariz. 2023).

[2] Id. at *6.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at *1.

[5] Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq.

[6] A.R.S. § 23-364.

[7] A.R.S. § 23-355.

[8] Xalamihua, at *1.

[9] Id. at *4.

[10] A.R.S. § 23-363(B).

[11]  A.R.S. § 23-351.

[12]  A.R.S. § 23-355; see also A.R.S. § 23-362(B); 29 U.S.C. § 203(d); Boucher v. Shaw, 572 F.3d 1087, 1090-91 (9th Cir. 2009).

[13] Xalamihua, at *4-5.

[14] Geddes v. United Fin. Grp., 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977) (emphasis added).

[15]  Xalamihua, at *5 (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)).

[16] Id. at *5.

[17] A.R.S. § 23-364(G).

[18] Xalamihua, at *5.

[19] Id.

[20] Id. at *6.

[21] Id. (citing Valenzuela v. Esser, CV 22-01180 PHX CDB, 2023 WL 2815548 (D. Ariz. Mar. 14, 2023)).

[22] Id. at *6.

[23] Id.