What Constitutes Retaliation In A Fair Labor Standards Act Case?

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides certain minimum wage and overtime standards that apply to nearly all U.S. employers. Pursuant to the FLSA, employers must pay workers at least minimum wage ($7.25/hour, although in some states the wage is higher) and pay all non-exempt workers overtime compensation for time worked in excess of 40 hours in any work week. One of the biggest sources of wage lawsuits comes out the definition of “exempt” and how your employer classifies you.

Exempt employees are those who perform a certain type of “white collar” work and make a certain salary each week. If you are considered exempt, then you are not entitled to compensation regardless of the number of hours you work. On the other hand, if the exemptions do not apply to you, then you must be paid time and a half for all overtime hours. As a result whether you are exempt vs. non-exempt is very important and is one of the leading causes of FLSA litigation.

If you have questions about your classification or are concerned that you may have been misclassified, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable Georgia wage and hour attorney right away. We can begin an evaluation of your work situation and help ensure you are bringing home all the pay you deserve.

It’s important to remember that in addition to requiring employers pay their workers what they deserve, the FLSA also prohibits employers from retaliating against you if you complain that they have violated the law. This means if you tell your employer that you think you’ve been misclassified and should be receiving overtime pay they cannot try to get back at you by firing you or taking other negative actions.

A recent case looked at just what can be considered “retaliation” in the context of a FLSA. In Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. an hourly manufacturing and production employee made oral complaints about the location of the time clocks. Shortly after he complained, his company fired him.

The courts that evaluated this case made a couple of very important determinations. First, the United States Supreme Court ruled that under the FLSA oral complaints are generally sufficient – you don’t need file a formal written complaint – as long as they provide “fair notice” that the employee is asserting his or her rights under the FLSA.

Also, the 7th Circuit addressed the issue of causation (in other words, was Kasten fired for complaining?) and concluded that it was possible that a reasonable jury could find that the circumstantial evidence in this case amounted to retaliation. The evidence included allegations by Kasten that:

1. The decision to fire him was made just hours after operations and plant managers learned that he asked his shift supervisor about class action lawsuits regarding time-clock punches;
2. His employer made ambiguous statements: Mr. Kasten asserted that his supervisor told him to “Just lay down and tell them what they want to hear, [they] can probably save your job.”
3. The company engaged in suspicious behavior: The Company allegedly moved the time-clocks the day Mr. Kasten was discharged.

Taken as a whole, this evidence was enough to maintain a claim of retaliation under the FLSA.

If you have questions about the FLSA including what constitutes a violation or retaliation, please call today to discuss your situation with a skilled Atlanta FLSA attorney Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP right away.