Guard against punishing FLSA whistle-blowers

The Fair Labor Standards Act makes it illegal to punish an employee who reports violations, real or perceived, to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). If you learn about such a report, don’t punish the messenger. Address the complaint.

Recent case: Lee Ann Benge worked in the HR department at Highgate Holdings. She thought some employees had been improperly classified as exempt when they were really hourly employees. She urged the company to fix the problem.

When nothing happened, she called the DOL and requested an audit. After telling her boss what she had done, her bonus was cut and she was fired for being a poor “fit” for the company.

She sued, alleging retaliation. The court said the case should go to trial because her activities were protected. (Benge v. Highgate Holdings, No. 3:09-CV-1404, ND TX, 2010)