Supreme Court Holds that Oral Complaints Constitute Protected Activity Under the Fair Labor Standards Act


Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court clarified the scope of the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), holding that oral complaints by employees may constitute protected activity. The FLSA prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against an employee because that employee “filed any complaint” under or relating to the statute. In Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the Supreme Court held that this language covers oral complaints, not just written ones.

In Kasten, the plaintiff sued his former employer under the FLSA, alleging that he had been fired for complaining about a violation of the statute. He alleged that he had orally complained to his supervisor and to human resources personnel that because of the location of the time clocks, employees were not being paid for time spent donning and doffing protective gear and walking to their workstations. The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim on the grounds that the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision did not cover oral complaints. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

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