As the new Supreme Court session gets under way, an important case for
worker’s rights will be determined. In
Kasten v. Saint-Gobain, the Court will examine the issue of retaliation as it relates to the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
The FLSA covers a number of different areas, including minimum wage, overtime
and child labor laws. Under current law, written complaints against employers
for violations of the FLSA are protected from retaliation. This means
that an employer may not take any adverse employment actions against employees
engaged in protected activities. Specifically, the FLSA provides:
“[I]t shall be unlawful for any person . . . to discharge or in any
other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has
filed any complaint.”
Kasten v. Saint-Gobain, the employee – Kevin Kasten – verbally complained to his
supervisor from October 2006 through December 2006 about the location
of the time clocks and that their placement prevented employees from being
paid for time spent donning and doffing their required protective gear.
He also told a supervisor that he planned to bring a lawsuit based on
the location of the clocks.
In December 2006, Kasten was terminated on the grounds that he had violated
the company’s policy regarding clock punching. He then filed suit
under the FLSA alleging that his termination had been in retaliation for
his verbal complaints.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s
determination that Kasten had not “filed” a complaint, an
action requiring the submission of some form of writing. As a result,
the protected activity necessary to give rise to a cause of action for
retaliation did not exist.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari in March and will hear argument this term.
Kasten asserts that the term “filed” as used in the FLSA includes
oral complaints, and that allowing verbal complaints is in furtherance
of the FLSA’s statutory intent. Further, as the dissent points out,
not only is the 7th Circuit is in disagreement with other circuits on
this issue, but that the determination of whether a written or verbal
complaint is necessary has such a “broad impact on a variety of
anti-retaliation provisions, which ‘serve to protect not just the
individual worker, but the means by which federal agencies become aware
of unlawful labor practices’ that further consideration of this
topic was necessary.”
It is important to note though – violations of the FLSA are strictly
prohibited. If your employer violates the FLSA you may be able to file
a claim. The question here is whether retaliation based on oral complaints
of violations constitutes an additional cause of action.
Atlanta employment lawyers, we recognize the impact this decision may have for workers throughout
Georgia. We will be watching this case closely and reporting as developments
occur. If you believe you have been subject to an FLSA violation, or subject
to an adverse employment action as the result of complaining about an
FLSA violation, please contact Buckley Beal LLP, dedicated to protecting