Wage & Hour Retaliation
Employee Wage & Hour Retaliation
Laws protecting employees’ rights to the wages and bonuses they’ve earned and the overtime pay they are owed are meaningless without the ability to challenge employers’ illegal actions. Many employees are understandably hesitant to challenge their employer’s illegal pay practices for fear of retaliation. Indeed, retaliation is the most common illegal motive we see in employment cases. Companies too often look to shoot the messenger rather than solve the real problems they face.
State and federal law prohibit this type of retaliation for challenging an employer’s illegal pay practices, but only if the employee does it in the right way. While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act provides robust retaliation protection, state law has many traps for the unwary in these types of claims. Employees looking to enforce the law and challenge their employer’s illegal actions should go directly to the department of labor. If an employee is complaining about illegal pay practices internally at their company, they should expressly threaten to file claims with the department of labor. Anything more subtle or civil may leave an employee unprotected from retaliation when his or her employer lashes out.
Do I Have a Case?
If you are considering blowing the whistle at work, it is best to check with an employment attorney ahead of time to ensure that what you want to report will count as “protected activity” before you do it. While good companies and good bosses will take important feedback on management and business issues in stride, more will retaliate against the reporting employee. If your report is not “protected activity,” your employer can legally fire you for complaining and that is exactly what your boss might want to do, especially if your complaint is about her or him.
Employees Must File Claims Within 180 Days
North Carolina’s Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act prohibits employers from taking any retaliatory action against an employee because the employee in good faith does or threatens to file a claim or complaint, initiate any inquiry, investigation, inspection, proceeding or other action, or testify or provide information to any person with respect to any violation of the Wage and Hour Act. The law requires employees to file a claim with the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) within 180 days of the adverse employment action. The law carries significant remedies for employees, including triple damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Unfortunately, the North Carolina Department of Labor is far more likely to harm your case than to help your cause. Therefore, we strongly recommend you reach out for a consult before going to the NCDOL if you believe you have been the victim of unlawful retaliation. No matter what, though, you must comply with the 180-day deadline. Therefore, you should file with the NCDOL immediately if it has been five months since the adverse employment action occurred.