On October 13, 2010, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding whether informal, oral complaints are sufficient to invoke the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) anti-retaliation provisions. The underlying case, Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, involved an issue where the employee, Kevin Kasten, alleged he had been fired by his employer as a result of several verbal complaints he had made regarding the illegal location of time clocks in his factory.
The Defendant argued that because Kasten had not filed a written complaint with the government, he had not invoked the protections of the FLSA's anti-retaliation provisions. According to the Defendant's arguments, in order to be protected from retaliation, an employee must do more than make a complaint to the company - he or she must file a complaint with the government, either the Department of Labor, or through the court mechanism.
Courts have been split on the issue about whether informal complaints not made to the government invoke the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA. For example, the 10th Circuit (where the District of Kansas is located) has held that informal complaints to an employer about violations of the FLSA are sufficient to give protections to employees, while the 8th Circuit (where the Districts of Missouri are located) has held that such informal complaints are insufficient to give protection to employees. In other words, until now, an employee may have different rights regarding complaints about wage violations, based on which side of the state line they work.