Greathouse v. JHS Security Inc.

784 F.3d 105 (2015)

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Greathouse v. JHS Security Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
784 F.3d 105 (2015)

Facts

Darnell Greathouse (plaintiff) was employed as a security guard for JHS Security Inc. (JHS) (defendant) for just over five years. During these years, Greathouse was sometimes paid late or not at all and suffered inappropriate payroll deductions. As of October 2011, Greathouse had not received a paycheck in several months. Greathouse complained orally to his boss, Melvin Wilcox (defendant), the president and coowner of JHS. Wilcox pulled a gun on Greathouse, aimed it at him, and told Greathouse that he would get paid whenever Wilcox felt like paying him. Greathouse interpreted Wilcox’s response as termination of his employment. Greathouse filed a complaint against JHS and Wilcox, alleging violations under New York’s labor law and under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for wage violations and retaliatory discharge. When neither JHS nor Wilcox responded, a default judgment was entered. A federal district court accepted a magistrate judge’s recommendation that Greathouse was entitled to damages on his claims under state law but not under the FLSA. Previously, the Second Circuit had held that an FLSA retaliation claim must be premised on an employee’s written complaint submitted to a government agency. Subsequently, the Supreme Court overruled the Second Circuit, holding that an employee's FLSA complaint could be oral as long as it was sufficiently clear to provide the employer with notice that the employee was claiming rights protected by the FLSA for which the employer’s adverse action could bring a claim of retaliation. However, as the magistrate judge rightly noted, the Supreme Court had not addressed the Second Circuit’s holding that an employee’s complaint had to be filed with a government agency rather than with the employer in order to be actionable for retaliation. Greathouse appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Carney, J.)

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