Category Archives: Retaliation

Quirky Question #284: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, can you still unlawfully retaliate against it?

Question: One of our male supervisors wants to fire a female employee who complained that he was sexually harassing her. The harassment allegations appear to have some substance: he asked her for pictures of herself in a bikini; told her to “stay off [her] knees,” which she viewed as sexual innuendo; and told her that her regulation length shorts were too short. Also, the grounds for termination (driving a vehicle with the door open, creating a safety hazard) have been overlooked in other situations. We are a little worried that she will claim we are retaliating against her for the sexual harassment complaint.  But the supervisor says he never heard about the sexual harassment complaint.  So, if he didn’t know about the complaint, he could not possibly retaliate against her on the basis of that complaint, right?  You could get this case thrown out before it ever went to trial, right?

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Quirky Question #257, Food for thought – whistleblowing claims against agricultural companies

Question:

My company manufactures food products and is thus regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Last month, we terminated an employee because of his chronic poor performance. I just learned that the day before he was terminated, the employee told his supervisor that he believed our company was not complying with the FDA’s nutrition label requirements. Are we at risk that he will bring a whistleblower claim?

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Quirky Question # 238, No Laughing Matter – Company Found Liable for Wrongfully Terminating Independent Contractor’s Agreement

Question:

My company relies on independent contractors, over whom we don’t exert control. They often joke around with each other. I’m not liable for employment discrimination if I terminate one of them after they complain about another, right? Answer→

Quirky Question # 183, Retaliating Against an Applicant Who Previously Sued Under the FLSA

Question:

We recently made an offer to an applicant for an important job at our company. The offer was conditioned on a satisfactory background check and her passing our standard drug test. She had no problem with the drug test. But, when we did the background check, we discovered that she had sued her former employer for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Based on that fact, we want to pull the offer. Do you see any problems with that decision? Are we buying litigation? Answer→

Kasten v. Saint-Gobain: Supreme Court Rules on Oral FLSA Employee Complaints

Kasten v. Saint-Gobain: Supreme Court Rules That Oral Employee Complaints Are Afforded FLSA Retaliation Protection

Introduction

On March 22, 2011, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., __U.S.__, No. 09-834 (Mar. 22, 2011), holding that oral complaints are sufficient to support retaliation cases under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

The Court’s decision has potentially significant implications beyond the FLSA, as several other federal statutes—including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”), the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the Clean Air Act—include similar language in their anti-retaliation provisions.  Of particular importance to employers, the holding reaffirms a best practice for employee complaints: Pay attention to all employee complaints, regardless whether they are oral or written.

Background

Kasten, a former employee in Saint-Gobain’s Portage, Wisconsin facility, received repeated warnings, and ultimately was terminated, for violating company policy requiring hourly employees to clock in and out of work. See Kasten v. St. Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 570 F.3d 834, 836 (7th Cir. 2009).  Following his termination, Kasten filed a lawsuit alleging that he was discharged in retaliation for making oral complaints to his supervisors and human resources personnel that the location of the company’s time clocks prevented employees from recording their time spent “donning and doffing” protective gear.  See id. at 835-36. Answer→