A Georgia Brewery is Ordered to Compensate Two Workers It Fired After They Questioned the Employer’s Pay Practices

One would hope that business owners and managers would always conduct themselves with professionalism and circumspection when dealing with inquiries from their employees. Reality tells us something different. Too many employers, when approached by an employee about issues like the employer’s pay practices, eschew restraint in favor of vindictive, vengeful retaliation. When that happens to you in the course of your job, do not be discouraged, as what your employer has done may entitle you to, with the help of a knowledgeable Atlanta workplace retaliation lawyer, recover compensation for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

One such incident occurred here in North Georgia. Allegations against a DeKalb County brewery were numerous, including misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

However, one alleged transgression drew particular attention from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The allegation involved the treatment of two brewery employees who emailed the brewery’s owner to inquire about their wages and the employer’s rules about tip sharing.

The employees likely hoped for some remedial action or at least some sort of explanation or clarification. Instead, what they got were notices of termination. This, according to the Labor Department, was illegal retaliation that constituted a violation of the FLSA, entitling the employees to thousands in back wages and liquidated damages.

The Elements of a Retaliation Case

If you are pursuing an FLSA retaliation case, you must have three essential ingredients for success. First, you must have proof that you engaged in some sort of protected activity. Earlier this year, the Labor Department issued a bulletin regarding retaliation. In that bulletin, the agency reminded readers about the range of activities that are protected.

According to the bulletin, examples of “protected activity include making a complaint to a manager, employer, or” the government, cooperating with an investigation into FLSA violations, “requesting payment of wages,” consulting with governmental agencies about possible FLSA violations, requesting certain types of leave, and testifying at trial, among other things.

What these two brewery employees did when they emailed the brewery’s owner definitely fell within the range of what constitutes “protected activity.”

The second and third required elements are an action adverse to the employee(s) and a “causal connection” between the protected activity and adverse action. In this case, the adverse action was plain: the employees’ terminations. Their case also had evidence of the necessary degree of connection in terms of causation. In some cases, closeness in terms of time frame can, by itself, be enough to establish this third element. For example, if you inquire about your employer’s pay practices on Tuesday and your employer fires you the following Friday, those facts alone may be sufficient to establish a causal connection.

If you’ve been the target of retaliation in your workplace because you engaged in activity that is protected under the FLSA, then you may be entitled to recover compensation through a civil action. The skillful Atlanta workplace retaliation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. We’ve successfully represented countless workers just like you who have been harmed by their employer’s illegal actions, so we know how to deliver positive results. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.

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