Monday, March 22, 2010

Supreme Court Grants Cert in Saint Gobain FLSA Case

4United States Supreme Court 112904 Rather than reinvent the wheel on this one since so many have written about it already, I will just note here quickly that the United States Supreme Court granted cert today in Kasten v. Saint Gobain Performance Plastics, 09-834 (opinion below from 7th Circuit here).

The Seventh Circuit had held that under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) anti-retaliation provision, 29 U.S.C. Section 215(a)(3), only written complaints, not oral ones, qualify as protected activity.

Ross Runkel helpfully explains:

Kasten alleged that he was discharged in retaliation for making verbal complaints to his superiors that the employer's placement of time clocks violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA's anti-retaliation provision prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because the employee "has filed any complaint...." 29 USC Section 215(a)(3).

The 7th Circuit held that "any complaint" includes an employee's internal ("intra-company") complaint. However, the court also held that an employee does not "file" such a complaint in this context when he submits the complaint in purely unwritten form. The court reasoned, "the natural understanding of the phrase 'file any complaint' requires the submission of some writing to an employer, court, or administrative body."

The 7th Circuit denied a rehearing en banc. Three judges DISSENTED from the denial of a rehearing, saying that "The court has adopted a construction of the Fair Labor Standard Act's anti-retaliation provision that is unique among the circuits." "[T]he court has taken a position contrary to the longstanding view of the Department of Labor, departed from the holdings of other circuits, and interpreted the statutory language in a way that I believe is contrary to the understanding of Congress."

I really have no idea how this case will come out, but the decision may be an interesting example of how different Justices engage in the exercise of statutory construction.

Hat Tip:  Rebecca Hamburg


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