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Business owner ordered to attend anti-retaliation training after allegedly interfering with DOL investigation

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Dive Brief:

  • A federal district court judge on Monday ordered the owner of an assisted living facility to attend anti-retaliation training after allegedly threatening to fire workers for cooperating with a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, according to a news release. In the consent judgment, District Judge Jane M. Beckering also ordered Safe Haven Assisting Living of Haslett LLC and its owner to pay $16,500 in back wages and liquidated damages to three former employees. 
  • DOL filed a lawsuit in February after its Wage and Hour Division found that the Safe Haven owner allegedly threatened to fire employees who helped with the division’s investigation into the facility’s pay practices. Plaintiffs also alleged that the owner, after one worker’s resignation, contacted the worker’s potential new employer to report misconduct, according to the release. 
  • “This case’s resolution restores back wages earned and compensates three workers harassed by [the owner] for exercising their rights to cooperate with federal investigators, a clear violation of the workers’ protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” WHD District Director Mary O’Rourke in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said in the release.

Dive Insight:

The FLSA prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for filing a wage and hour complaint or assisting in an investigation against the company, similar to federal nondiscrimination laws.

Retaliation claims may arise when an employee calls attention to alleged wrongdoing. A former HR manager at Bungie, a video game publisher, for example, earlier this year alleged she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for alerting her superiors of racial bias. 

In July, an operator of fast food restaurant Bojangles agreed to pay $20,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case alleged the employee was retaliated against for reporting inappropriate touching and remarks from a manager.

Such claims can be expensive, sources have previously told HR Dive, and can succeed regardless of whether the original claim is found to have merit.

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