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DOL files retaliation claims in FLSA case

A farm in Tennessee is facing allegations of retaliation against employees who exercised their legally protected right to inquire about their wages.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has filed a complaint and motion seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the farm and its human resources manager, Dianna Rosa, from continuing to violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) through retaliatory actions.

Wage inquiry leads to retaliation

According to DOL’s findings, two animal care workers asked Tosh Pork about their pay and later cooperated with investigators from the DOL’s Wage and Hour division. After learning of a complaint, Tosh Pork allegedly assigned one employee to tasks outside their normal job duties, such as cleaning offices, bathrooms, and picking up pig waste. The company also allegedly attempted to force the employee to sign a document prohibiting them from discussing pay issues with other employees.

In another incident, a worker who inquired about their wages was called to meet with the farm’s management and threatened with termination. Upon returning to their workstation, the employee discovered a severed pig’s head at their workstation.

Curb retaliation incidents with training

While this example is extreme, it serves as a reminder to employers and HR leaders. Retaliation can occur for a number of reasons, such as power play dynamics, threats to self-image, or when someone feels revenge is justified. Since retaliation can feel like a natural instinct to some, organizations need to be proactive to discourage, and ideally prevent, it from happening.

  • Provide training for management: Ensure that all managers and supervisors are properly trained on the FLSA and understand the importance of maintaining a workplace free from retaliation and discrimination.
  • Establish clear policies: Develop and implement clear policies that outline employees’ rights and the company’s commitment to protecting those rights. Make sure these policies are easily accessible and regularly communicated to all employees.
  • Investigate complaints promptly: If an employee raises concerns about their pay or reports potential violations, investigate the matter promptly and thoroughly. Take appropriate action to address any issues and prevent future occurrences.

The allegations in this case are a reminder to managers that retaliation against employees who exercise their legally protected rights is not only unethical but also illegal.