Employment Law Resources

Employee Briefcase

Mar 5 2014

Unlawful Terminations and the Impact of Recent Court Decisions | Employment Law & Employee Benefits

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Daniel E. Kornfeld, and Brian LaClair–a Partner and Associate, respectively, in Blitman & King’s Labor and Employment Practice–recently discussed unlawful terminations and the impact of recent court decisions at Blitman & King’s 22nd Annual Labor & Employment Seminar.  The discussion included the continued impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision holding that verbal complaint may support a claim for retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The FLSA antiretaliation provision makes it unlawful for an employer “to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to this chapter, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding, or has served or is about to serve on an industry committee.” 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(5).  In Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Corp, the U.S. Supreme Court confronted the issue of whether an employee who has made verbal complaints about possible FLSA violations to his supervisors has “filed any complaint” under the FLSA.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court decision and held that verbal complaints support a claim for retaliation under the FLSA.  The Court reasoned that, when read as a whole, the statute does not definitively answer whether “filed any complaint” contemplates only written complaints. The Court looked to dictionary definitions, the purpose of the statute and the interpretation of the U.S. Department of Labor that has consistently held that “filed any complaint” encompasses both oral and written complaints.