Monday, July 17, 2017

FLSA Provides Individual Liability for Retaliation

In Arias v. Raimondo (9th Cir., June 22, 2017, No. 15-16120) 2017 WL 2676771, the Plaintiff, Arias, brought an action against his employer's attorney, Raimondo, alleging retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) arising from the attorney's plan to have Arias taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to derail his state court wage claims against his employer, Angelo Dairy.  Arias argued that the lawyer was acting as his employer's agent and retaliated in violation of 29 U.S.C. Section 215(a)(3) by enlisting the services of ICE to take Arias into custody at a scheduled deposition and then to remove him from the United States.

Raimondo’s sole legal defense is that because he was never Arias’s actual employer, he cannot be held liable under the FLSA for retaliation against someone who was never his employee.  The court held the FLSA's anti-retaliation provision was not limited to actual employers, since its unlawful for “any person” to discriminate against any employee for filing a complaint under the FLSA and retaliation claims were different from FLSA wage and hour claims. The court noted, “the FLSA is “remedial and humanitarian in purpose. We are not here dealing with mere chattels or articles of trade but with the rights of those who toil, of those who sacrifice a full measure of their freedom and talents to the use and profit of others…. Such a statute must not be interpreted or applied in a narrow, grudging manner.”

The court clarified that Raimondo's liability was limited the retaliation claims, as a non-actual employer is not liable for substantive wage and hour claims.  In the public employment sector, this decision serves to strength the anti-retaliation protections for public employees enforcing their FLSA rights.  Supervisors who retaliate against public employees for bringing FLSA claims will be subject to individual liability even though they are not the actual employer.  Of course the anti-retaliation provisions also apply to employers, including public agencies.