Employment Law: Oral Wage and Overtime Complaints are Protected.

The US Supreme Court has confirmed that oral complaints related to failure to pay wages and overtime may constitute protected activity for FLSA purposes. This means that if an employee makes a protected oral complaint that he or she is not being paid earned wages or overtime wages for hours worked, the employee may then have legal protections from an employer taking retaliatory actions against the employee. The Court, however, left unanswered the question of what type of complaint is considered protected. At a minimum it appears that the complaint must be more than just a generalized complaint that the employee is not being paid. The Court stated that “the phrase “filed any complaint” contemplates some degree of formality, certainly to the point where the recipient has been given fair notice that a grievance has been lodged and does, or should, reasonably understand the matter as part of its business concerns.” The Court went on to state; “To fall within the scope of the antiretaliation provision, a complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it, in light of both content and context, as an assertion of rights protected by the statute and a call for their protection. This standard can be met, however, by oral complaints, as well as by written ones.”

Kasten v. Saint–Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 131 S.Ct. 1325, 179 L.Ed.2d 379 (2011).

Case decided on March 22, 2011.

The better practice is to file a written complaint with the Department of Labor or to at least specifically state that you feel that failure to pay proper wages is a violation of federal and state wage and overtime law. If you have any questions on how to proceed, call Tampa employment law attorney James M. Thompson at (813)769-3900 or call the Department of Labor or an attorney of your choice.