Both Wisconsin law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protect employees from acts of retaliation because they filed a complaint to recover unpaid wages.
The Supreme Court of the United States recently clarified the scope of retaliation protection offered under the FLSA. In an opinion issued on March 22, 2011, the Court eliminated any ambiguity regarding whether an employee was required to file a written complaint in order to trigger the Act’s protection. Kasten v. Saint-Gobain, 131 S.Ct. 1325. The court held that oral complaints are sufficient to trigger retaliation protection; however, the Court did not resolve the issue of whether the complaint had to be filed with a government agency to trigger protection.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has recently offered its own guidance about the scope of retaliation protection through issuance of a new DOL fact sheet: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.htm. The DOL adds that most courts offer protection for complaints that are made internally (to the employer) as well as complaints made to government agencies. The DOL also notes that retaliation protection extends to former employees who may suffer retaliatory acts. If you feel that you have suffered from retaliation from filing a complaint about your wages, you may be able to bring a lawsuit to recover damages, including twice the amount of back wages you are owed. If you have questions about this post or feel that you were the victim of retaliation, please contact an attorney at Hawks Quindel, S.C for a free consultation.