On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, the United States Supreme Court stated that employers cannot retaliate against employees who make verbal complaints that they have not been paid minimum wages or overtime wages. In 2006, Kevin Kasten complained to his foreman that he and his co-workers should have been paid for the time it took to change clothes and put on protective clothing at his plastics factory. In response to his complaints, the company fired him. When Kasten filed a retaliation lawsuit and stated his firing was illegal workplace retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act for having sought wages owed to him, the lower courts said the provisions of the FLSA that protect a worker against retaliation only apply if the worker’s “complaint” is in writing.
The Supreme Court said “not so,” that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee who complains – either verbally or in writing – about not receiving pay. Of course, we know in the real world of the workplace most employees who have complaints bring them first to immediate supervisors, and that this is almost always in conversation, not in writing. The decision by the Supreme Court means that you have more protection when you verbally complain about wages that you are owed.