Mr. Kasten was fired by Saint-Gobain because he complained that the company prevented its workers from being paid for the time they spent “donning and doffing” (putting on required protective gear). He claimed that the location of the company’s time clocks caused this problem. Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic Corp., __ U.S. __ (March 22, 2011).
The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employers from discharging “any employee because such employee has filed any complaint” asserting a violation of the Act. 29 U.S.C. Section 215(a)(3). This case turned solely upon the Supreme Court’s holding that the phrase “filed any complaint” includes the making of an oral complaint, here to Saint-Gobain’s officials.
The Court held that the “purpose and context” of the anti-retaliation provision led it to this interpretation. It noted that very real problems could occur if the provision did not protect those who complained orally: it could prevent government agencies from using hotlines; it could discourage the use of informal workplace grievance procedures; and it could make it difficult for workers who are less educated to complain. This led the Court to adopt a broad interpretation of the statute.