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New York Court Discusses Retaliation Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

December 23, 2019

In New York, state and federal laws protect employees from unfair wage practices, such as inadequate pay, and require employers to provide employees with hour and wage notices and wage statements. Similarly, the laws protect employees from retaliation for reporting wage violations. Thus, employees harmed by their employers’ inappropriate wage practices may be able to seek recourse in the civil courts. Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York discussed what a plaintiff alleging retaliation for reporting unfair wage practices must show to recover damages in a wage violation case. If your employer denied you the compensation you are owed, you should meet with a skillful New York wage and hour attorney to discuss your potential claims.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Employment

Allegedly, the plaintiff was employed as a maintenance repair worker by the defendant employer, from July 2013 through February 2018. He was paid a fixed salary throughout the duration of his employment. The plaintiff worked sixty-two hours per week and was required to work without lunch breaks. He also worked ten or more hours a day without receiving spread of hours compensation on the days he was on call and was not provided wage statements or hour and wage notices. He complained regarding the fact that he was underpaid on several occasions, including to his direct supervisor, but no remedial actions were taken. The plaintiff was subsequently terminated. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging violations of the New York Labor Law (NYLL) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and asserting retaliation claims. In response, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to plead retaliation adequately.

Retaliation Claims Under the FLSA and NYLL

Pursuant to the FLSA, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee due to the fact that the employee filed a complaint under the FLSA. A plaintiff that alleges retaliation under the FLSA must show that he or she engaged in a protected activity, like filing an FLSA complaint, that the employer then took action that harmed the plaintiff, and a causal connection between the harmful action and the protected activity.

For a complaint to qualify as a protected activity, it must be sufficiently clear and detailed. It does not have to be written, however, as oral complaints will suffice. If an employer reduces a plaintiff’s wages or terminates a plaintiff, it will constitute an adverse action, though other acts are sufficient as well. Lastly, a causal connection can be shown by the fact that the adverse action occurred shortly after the plaintiff’s complaint, or proof of a retaliatory animus directed toward the plaintiff.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged that he complained regarding being underpaid and that he was fired shortly thereafter. Thus, the court found that he adequately pleaded retaliation under the FLSA. The court also stated that the NYLL covered complaints to an employer, but was broader than the FLSA. As such, the court found the plaintiff pleaded sufficient facts to pursue his NYLL retaliation claim as well. Accordingly, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Speak With a New York Employment Attorney

If your employer failed to pay you wages you are owed, you should speak with a trusted wage and hour attorney to assess your options for seeking compensation. At Gerstman Schwartz LLP, our seasoned employment attorneys will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you pursue any damages you might be owed. You can reach us via the online form or by calling (212) 227-7070 for our Manhattan office or (516) 880-8170 for our Garden City office to schedule a confidential and free consultation.

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