Language Interpreter and Translator Services, Internal Employee Complaints and the FSLA

We’ve blogged about the importance of professional multilingual legal and deposition translation and court interpretation services for labor and employment law and for employment litigation attorneys and law firms. In the recent Supreme Court case of Kasten v. Saint-Gobain, it was held that the Fair Labor Standard Act’s (FLSA) anti-retaliation provision protects both oral and written complaints. The FLSA is charged with issuing regulations on minimum wage, hours and overtime pay. According to the anti-retaliation provision, it is unlawful for employers to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee because such employee has filed any complaint”.

But what about internal complaints -complaints from an employee directly to a private employer? Are these protected under the FLSA? Although the Supreme Court stated ‘no view’ on the subject, lower court decisions have provided some insight. Most courts who have considered this issue ruled that such complaints are protected under the FLSA. But this is based on the Supreme Court defined ‘filed any complaint’ standard that holds a complaint filed when “a reasonable, objective person would have understood the employee to have put the employer on notice that the employee is asserting statutory rights under the act”. This raises the question, if the employee gives an oral, written complaint in a foreign language, is the employer expected to understand it as being a filed complaint under this standard? As no court has taken up this issue, it is advisable that employers either have a foreign language interpreter available or, more reasonably, to ensure that the employee handbook clearly states how a complaint is to be filed (and have the handbook available in foreign language translations).

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