29th Apr 2015

In the 1993 case of Lambert v. Genesee Hospital, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit interpreted the anti-retaliation provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require an employee make a written complaint to a government agency in order to be protected against retaliation under the FLSA. For almost two (2) decades, this stringent standard was applied to FLSA retaliation cases in New York and many other jurisdictions around the county.

In 2011, the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Kasten v. Saint–Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. overruled the requirement that an employee’s complaint about issues covered by the FLSA (such as overtime violations and minimum wage violations) must be in writing, thereby opening the door to employees being protected from retaliation for making complaints in verbal form. Kasten also cast doubt upon, but did not expressly overrule, the notion that the FLSA required employees to complain to a governmental agency in order to receive protection against retaliation under the FLSA.

Last week, the Second Circuit used Kasten to overrule its ruling in Lambert. In so doing, the Second Circuit expressly held that employees who make oral complaints to their employers about FLSA-related issues are protected from retaliation in response for making said complaints. In the case of Greathouse v. JHS Security Inc., Darnell Greathouse approached the owner of JHS Security Inc. to complain about not having been paid his wages for several months. In response, JHS Security Inc.’s owner stated,