FLSA specifically provides that it is "unlawful for any person
... to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any
employee because such employee has filed any complaint or instituted
any or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to
this Act, or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding."
has "teeth," and is interpreted broadly in favor of employees.
who retaliates or discriminates against an employee in violation
of this statute is potentially subject to fines or even criminal
prosecution, and the affected employee is entitled to "legal or
equitable relief ... including without limitation employment, reinstatement,
promotion, and the payment of wages lost and an additional equal
amount" plus attorneys' fees and court costs. Punitive damages are
available in appropriate cases, and "anti-retaliation" cases may
be brought against individuals as well as institutional employers.
ruled that the "anti-retaliation" FLSA provisions are designed "to
foster an environment in which employees are unfettered in their
decision to voice grievances without fear of economic retaliation
or reprisal," and as a consequence the courts have interpreted the
statute to apply to a wide variety of retaliatory employer actions.
In addition to "firing" cases, retaliation has been found when employers
blacklisted employees who made FLSA claims, refused to hire applicants
who had made FLSA claims at other jobs, fired relatives, reduced
job responsibilities, assigned employees to unpopular job duties
or shifts, disciplined employees out of proportion to past disciplinary
practices, reduced performance evaluations, and declined to recommend
making an FLSA claim will not likely make an employee popular with
management, and not all "adverse" employer reactions to an employee
who makes an FLSA claim will "cross the line" into illegal retaliation
or discrimination. "Nasty looks," "cold shoulder" treatment at work,
and the like are not likely (in and of themselves) to be considered
unlawful, even if they result from management displeasure about
an employee's making an FLSA claim. And in the unlikely event that
an employer actually discriminates or retaliates against an employee
in violation of this statute, the remedies provided by the law may
take time and aggravation to obtain. However, most often there is
no real retaliation or discrimination, and "threats" can usually
be dealt with summarily by a call to a "higher up" in the organization
(or the employer's lawyer) who, in turn, will almost always advise
the offending party to "knock it off" immediately.