FLSA Retaliation for Complaint to State Agency

By James Denis

May. 7, 2010

When hired by ADT Security Services Inc. in December 2008 as “resales” representatives, Sharon Randolph and Tami Thompson were told they would be paid a salary during their training and thereafter would be paid on a commission basis. After receiving their first paychecks, they complained to management that they had not been fully compensated and, in response, were warned to stop complaining or they might get in trouble. Randolph and Thompson filed a complaint with Maryland’s state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, alleging unpaid wages and unpaid overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

After it was notified of that agency complaint, ADT fired both women for providing confidential compensation information to the state agency.

Randolph and Thompson sued ADT in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging that their terminations violated Maryland’s “abusive discharge” law and the anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA.

ADT moved for dismissal, arguing that Randolph’s and Thompson’s complaints to the state agency did not constitute protected complaints under FLSA and that because they were commission-based employees, they were not eligible to file a complaint under either the FLSA or the Maryland wage-and-hour laws.

In rejecting ADT’s arguments, the court found that the FLSA protects “any complaint or … any proceeding under or related to this chapter.” Therefore, the district court held that the plaintiffs did not need to have an actionable claim under other sections of the FLSA in order to make them eligible to bring a retaliation claim under the complaint clause. Randolph v. ADT Sec. Servs. Inc., D. Md., No. 09-1790 (3/24/10).

Impact: Firing an employee who has made any complaint about wages or overtime pay could subject the employer to liability for retaliation under the FLSA’s complaint clause as well as applicable state law.

Workforce Management, May 2010, p. 10Subscribe Now!

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