• March 22, 2011

Nichols Kaster PLLP (FKA NKA (that is, Nichols Kaster & Anderson)  has won an appeal before the United States Supreme Court today in a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) case.

(The firm’s press release, after the break)

Today, the United States Supreme Court handed down an opinion in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., 563 U.S. __ (2011).  In the majority opinion by Justice Breyer, the Court held that an employee who orally complains to his or her employer about a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is protected from retaliation at the hands of the employer.  The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin had held that Mr. Kasten’s complaints to his employer about violations of the FLSA did not protect him from retaliation because they were oral rather than in writing.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals later affirmed that decision.

The Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit.  In reaching its conclusion, the Court considered the broad remedial purposes of the FLSA, which is the federal law which sets forth substantive wage, hour and overtime requirements for American workplaces.  The Court reasoned that the FLSA, which was passed during the Great Depression, would not have been intended to protect only workers who complain in writing, since many of the most vulnerable American workers at the time were illiterate.  As the Court asked rhetorically in its opinion, “Why would Congress want to limit the [FLSA’s] enforcement scheme’s effectiveness by inhibiting use of the Act’s complaint procedure by those who would find it difficult to reduce their complaints to writing, particularly illiterate, less educated, or overworked workers?”

Jim Kaster, Partner in the Minneapolis office of Nichols Kaster, PLLP, argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Nichols Kaster Attorney Adrianna Shannon, with assistance from Professor Eric Schnapper of the University of Washington School of Law, was the main brief writer on the case.  Jim Kaster said, “This opinion recognizes that the voice of employees is heard by the Supreme Court, whether that voice is uttered orally or in writing.”

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