Federal discrimination law is well settled that individuals who complain about discrimination, whether orally or in writing and whether internally or to an administrative agency or court, are protected by the anti-retaliation provisions of the those laws.
At least in New York, the law was less certain about whether employees who complain orally and internally about improper wage payments were protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (the “FLSA”) anti-retaliation provision. Indeed, in 2011, the highest Federal Appellate Court in New York, the Second Circuit, ruled that employees are protected under the FLSA’s retaliation provision only when (1) the complaint is written and (2) when it is filed with a government agency. On April 20, 2015, the Second Circuit reversed itself in Greathouse v. JHS Security, Inc., and held that employees who complain orally and internally are also protected.
Generally, speaking, the FLSA requires, among other things, that employers pay employees minimum wage and, when working more than 40 hours in a week, that employers pay overtime. Like the Federal anti-discrimination statutes, the FLSA contains an anti-retaliation provision which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file complaints related to the FLSA’s protections. In most jurisdictions in the United States, the Federal Appellate Courts interpreted the anti-retaliation provision like the discrimination statutes’ anti-retaliation sections, meaning that employees were covered by complaining orally to someone inside the company.