The U.S. Supreme Court decided today that the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits employers from “discharging . . . any employee because such employee has filed any complaint” alleging a violation of the Act, protects oral, as well as written, complaints by employees.
In Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., No. 09-834 (March 22, 2011) (pdf), the plaintiff claimed he was wrongfully discharged in retaliation for orally complaining to supervisors about the location of company timeclocks. (In a related case, a U.S. District Court previously found the location of the company’s timeclocks unlawful because it prevented workers from receiving credit for the time they spent donning and doffing their mandatory work clothes. See Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 556 F. Supp. 2d 941, 954 (W.D. Wis. 2008).) In considering the employer’s motion for summary judgment, the U.S. District Court accepted as true the plaintiff’s allegation that he repeatedly complained about the location of the timeclocks. The trial court nonetheless granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, on the ground that such oral complaints were not covered by the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision, 29 U.S.C. §215(a)(3), because oral complaints could not be “filed,” as §215(a)(3) requires.