Retaliation Claims Aren’t Limited to COVID-19

Employee retaliation cases have been highly publicized in recent months – especially in regards to employers retaliating against employees for reporting safety concerns or taking leave related to COVID-19. Retaliation is prohibited not just in the realm of COVID-19 as the Ole Dog Tavern in Connecticut found out.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against any employee because they have instituted a proceeding under the law, testified in the proceeding, or serve on an industry committee.

This CT tavern was ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay $137,465 in back wages and liquidated damages to its workers for failing to pay both the minimum wage and overtime.

The Tavern did not stop there – when paying out the owed wages and penalties to employees, the Tavern retaliated against those employees by:

  • Driving two employees to a bank to cash their checks for back wages or liquidated damages and demanding payment in the parking lot.
  • Threatening one employee with blacklisting.
  • Firing another employee and disparaging him to future employers.
  • Threatening to report employees to immigration and law enforcement agencies if they failed to give up the monies to which they were entitled.

The Department of Labor obtained an injunction preventing the business from retaliating or discriminating against their employees. The DOL “will not tolerate employers threatening employees unlawfully with immigration consequences, law enforcement action, termination or blacklisting for asserting their workplace rights or keeping money that they are due.”

In a retaliation claim, an employee can recover:

  • The wages they are owed,
  • Liquidated damages equal to the wages they are owed,
  • Attorney’s fees and costs, as well as
  • Lost wages that were a result of the adverse action the Company subjected the employee to from the date of the adverse action to the date a court judgment is entered.

The key takeaways from this Tavern’s actions are:

  • Follow the FLSA to avoid penalties in the first place, and
  • Don’t retaliate against your employees for seeking the wages that were owed to them.

Our fixed fee FLSA Wage, Hour & Timekeeping Audit has been prepared to assist employers in reviewing timekeeping practices for nonexempt employees to identify compliance risks and focus attention on best practices to develop.

Are you concerned about your own timekeeping and wage practices? We can help!