In a 6 – 2 ruling on Tuesday March 22, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of workers that file retaliation suits who verbally complained to their employers even if they did not file a written complaint.
The case involved a suit filed by Kevin Kasten who had verbally complained to a former employer about where the time clocks were located, and then was fired. The company said he was fired for unrelated reasons, but Kasten sued claiming retaliation and protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act.The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, saying that the 1938 law did not cover oral complaints.
But the Supreme Courts decision overturned that ruling. Justice Steven G. Breyer wrote for the majority, saying that “the words “filed any complaint” covers oral, as well as written complaints”, and cited dictionary definitions, court opinions, and other laws.
Justice Breyer did, however, say that “A complaint must be sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it, in light of both content and context, as an assertion of rights protected by the statute and a call for their protection.”
Justices Antonin Scalia and and Clarence Thomas were in dissent, and Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case.