Barkan Meizlish , April 29, 2022
Receiving adequate wages for hours worked is an entitlement that many employers simply ignore or overlook. Bringing issues with your paycheck to your employer’s attention can be scary and often very intimidating. Most employees are hesitant to complain about unpaid overtime or earned wages out of concern that they will upset their employer, leading to discipline, a hostile work environment, or even termination. However, employees have the federally protected right to complain to their employers about how they are being paid. This protection extends to complaining about how their co-workers are being paid. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is illegal for any employer to fire, demote or in any other way discriminate against employees for exercising their FLSA rights.
This past March, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new field assistance bulletin entitled Protecting Workers from Retaliation, which outlines the worker protections from retaliation for exercising their FLSA rights. The DOL reiterated that the FLSA anti-retaliation protections “hold the promise that workers can complain to the government or make inquires to their employers about violations of the law without fear that they will be terminated or subject to other adverse action as a result.” The DOL stated that it is stepping up its enforcement of anti-retaliation protections.
The courts have held that oral inquires, or complaints are protected. However, it is a better practice to make all inquiries or complaints in writing and state that you are exercising your FLSA rights in making the inquiry or complaint. Then save a copy of what you give to your employer. It takes courage to make the inquiry or complaint but understand that you are within your rights to do so, and you are protected from retaliation. The FLSA provides broad remedies to employees who are the victim of retaliation at work for exercising their FLSA rights. The remedies include unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and payment for emotional distress. This could also include back pay for up to two years.
If you have brought up an issue to your employer about pay you are entitled to, or if you feel you have suffered from a hostile work environment by reaching out to your employer about unpaid wages, give us a call to see how Barkan Meizlish can help. There is no obligation to discuss your case.
The Paycheck Warriors is a bi-weekly column written by The Paycheck Warrior himself, Managing Partner Bob DeRose. Every other week, just like your paycheck, Bob will take the time to address commonly asked questions about wage and hour law. He will also take on wage and hour topics popping up in the news. Have a question? Leave a comment and see what The Paycheck Warrior has to say!
Fill out the form below to get started.