Reporting employer misconduct takes a certain amount of bravery. It is the right thing to do, but an employee may rightly fear that their employer will take action against them for making such a report. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits retaliation by employers against employees who report an employer’s alleged FLSA violation.
Enforcement of the FLSA
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor is one of five agencies that enforce a whistleblower’s right to be free from retaliation in the workplace. This agency promotes compliance with labor laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act including:
- The federal minimum wage
- Overtime pay
- Proper recordkeeping, and
- Child labor laws
This list is not all-exhaustive. There are there are other protections afforded to employees under the FLSA.
A worker becomes a whistleblower if they report an employer’s alleged violation of the FLSA. It is a worker’s right to report such acts and to be free from retaliation by their employer for doing so.
What constitutes retaliation?
If an employer takes an adverse action against an employee for reporting employer misconduct, this constitutes retaliation. For example, if an employer fires an employee for blowing the whistle and filing a FLSA complaint to the Wage and Hour Division this may constitute retaliation. In addition, the FLSA protects employees who are discriminated against in the workplace for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation regarding employer misconduct. Retaliation can also take the form of other adverse actions, such as a demotion or a pay cut.
What can I do if I was the subject of retaliation?
If your employer retaliates against you for exercising your rights under the FLSA, you have options. One option is to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division. Another option is to pursue a private cause of action. Some damages you may seek include reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and liquidated damages. Whistleblower retaliation can be discouraging and can cause a chilling effect amongst workers. Therefore, it is important that employees understand their rights under federal law to be free from retaliation for blowing the whistle.