Retaliation For Complaining About Misclassification May Violate The FLSA

One of the goals of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is to provide minimum protections to workers, such as minimum wage and overtime pay. In order to ensure that the workers can assert their rights, the FLSA also protects them from retaliation.

“Retaliation” refers to actions taken by your employer that negatively affect your job. This not only includes terminations, but also failures to promote, moves to less favorable shifts or locations and several other actions that an employer may take as the result of you complaining about wage and hour violations.

If you have questions about the FLSA or possible retaliation claims, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Atlanta wage and hour attorney. A recent FLSA retaliation case, Kavanaugh v. CDS Systems, focused on the termination of an HR director. According to the complaint, two of its employees made complaints concerning their classifications as exempt. Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay, whereas the FLSA requires “nonexempt” employees be paid at a rate of one and one-half times their standard rate of pay for each hour worked.

In this instance, the exempt classification meant that the workers would not receive significant overtime pay that they deserved. In response to these complaints, the HR manager, began an investigation to determine whether these employees were indeed misclassified. Based on her research, she determined that the workers were misclassification and should be paid overtime for each hour work in excess of 40 each week. She then sent an email to the CFO concerning her complaints and the results of her investigation She recommended that the company perform an audit to ensure all employees were properly classified as exempt vs. not exempt, and come up with a way to track hours worked by non-exempt employees.

Rather than acting on these findings, the CFO asked the HR manager how to make the FLSA complaints “go away.” She responded that the FLSA was the law, and as employers they were required to follow it. The HR director performed an audit and determined that several employees had been misclassified. Three days later the HR Director was fired. She filed a lawsuit alleging that she was discharged in violation of the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provisions, as well as other state law provisions.

The court determined that such allegations, if true, state a claim for retaliation pursuant to the FLSA.

The bottom line – the FLSA protects employees. If you believe your rights have been violated, you should not fear job retaliation as the result of your complaint. Further, workers who try to do the right thing should not be punished for their efforts.

For more information or if you have any wage and hour questions, please contact the top Georgia wage and hour lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP.