High Court Sanctions Oral FLSA Complaints for Anti-Retaliation Provision

March 24, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a complaint about violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t have to be in writing for the complaining employee to be covered by the law’s anti-retaliation provision.

The high court’s ruling in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp overturns earlier decisions by a district court judge and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which both had contended that oral FLSA complaints would not trigger the anti-retaliation measure in the law.

The underpinning of the case was oral complaints by plaintiff Kevin Kasten to Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation officials that the location of the employer’s time-clocks prevented workers from receiving credit for time spent donning and doffing their work clothes, which resulted in FLSA violations.

Kasten took the matter through internal grievance procedures and to his shift supervisor, a human resource employee, his lead operator, the human resources manager and operations manager. The employer fired Kasten for repeatedly not properly recording his work hours. Kasten sued, saying that represented prohibited FLSA retaliation.

The trial court judge threw out the case based on the oral versus written FLSA complaint issue and the appellate court agreed.

A client alert from employment law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP said the ruling “threatens to open the floodgates to a wave of new plaintiffs who orally complain about real or perceived violations of the FLSA.“

The high court’s ruling is at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-834.pdf.