KASTEN v. SAINT-GOBAIN PERFORMANCE PLASTIC

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
09-834
Petitioner 
Kevin Kasten
Respondent 
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation
Decided By 
Advocates
(for the petitioner)
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner)
(for the respondent)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

On December 11, 2006, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastic terminated Kevin Kasten's employment. Mr. Kasten filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") in a Wisconsin federal district court alleging that he was retaliated against for filing complaints about the legality of the location of Saint- Gobain's time clocks. Mr. Kasten alleges that the location of the time clocks prevented employees from being paid for time spent donning and doffing their required protective gear. Saint-Gobain motioned for summary judgment arguing that purely verbal complaints, like those made by Mr. Kasten, were not protected activity under the FLSA. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that unwritten, purely verbal complaints are not protected activity under the FLSA.

Question 

The Fair Labor Standards Act protects employees from retaliation for complaining about violations of the statute. Does the protection apply only if the complaint is in writing?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Kasten, 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Fair Labor Standards Act

No. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court decision in an opinion by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. The majority held that the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to a complaint, whether oral or written. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. "The retaliation provision contemplates an official grievance filed with a court or an agency, not oral complaints—or even formal, written complaints — from an employee to an employer," Scalia argued. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the consideration of the case.

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KASTEN v. SAINT-GOBAIN PERFORMANCE PLASTIC . The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_834>.
KASTEN v. SAINT-GOBAIN PERFORMANCE PLASTIC , The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_834 (last visited November 25, 2014).
"KASTEN v. SAINT-GOBAIN PERFORMANCE PLASTIC ," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_09_834.