Can My Supervisor Retaliate Against Me For Filing a Wage Claim?

When it comes to matters of employment law, companies often rely upon the threat of retaliation to keep employees from reporting their actions. In the case of employees filing wage theft claims, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) protects employees by keeping cases confidential and protecting against retaliation.

Retaliation, and even the threat of retaliation, can be a huge problem in the workplace. Retaliation occurs when an employer tries to “punish” a worker for reporting a problem or filing a complaint. A supervisor trying to hide overtime expenses might try to cut costs by not paying out overtime, and the supervisor might threaten an employee’s job if he tries to file a claim. Since the WHD oversees the Fair Labor Standards Act, they offer protections so that employees are willing to come forward without fearing for their jobs.

How Employees Are Protected

When a wage theft complaint is filed against an employer, the WHD keeps all information confidential. Since wage theft is a federal crime under the FLSA, employers cannot retaliate against their employees for reporting the crime. Whether you file a complaint with the company about possible wage theft, or if you file with the WHD, if you filed a claim with a good faith belief that your rights had been violated, then you are under the protection of the FLSA against retaliation.

The purpose of the WHD is to ensure that employees are treated fairly, and that includes being paid according to all applicable laws. Employees who engage with the WHD due to wage theft issues should feel safe because the agency is there to protect their interests.

Filing a Wage Theft Claim

Upon the discovery of possible wage theft, there are two courses of action: You can either file a complaint at the company level, or you can work directly with the WHD. Sometimes the company will resolve the issue internally, but sometimes they will try to silence the matter. That’s when you need to escalate the issue externally to the WHD.

When filing your claim, you need to understand whether the company violated state or federal wage laws, especially where minimum wage is concerned. For example, if the company is paying you federal minimum wage instead of local or state minimum wage, then you need to make sure that you contact local labor authorities as well as the Department of Labor.


When you file your claim, either at the company level or with the WHD, you are under the protection of the FLSA laws against retaliation. Your employer can’t fire you for filing the claim, nor can your job change as a result of the complaint. For example, your supervisor cannot demote you or place you in a lower position because you filed a complaint, and you cannot be passed over for a promotion either.

The challenge with retaliation is proving intent. You need to gather all of the evidence that your employer retaliated against you, including jobs you applied for that you did not receive or any situation when your pay was reduced because your job responsibilities changed.

Damages For Retaliation

If you have filed a wage theft complaint against your employer and then are the victim of retaliation, there is a chance that you can receive reimbursement for losses suffered as a result. These losses can include lost wages, out of pocket costs, legal fees and emotional distress.

The best way to determine what reimbursement you might be owed is to speak with an experienced employment lawyer who can help walk you through the wage theft claim process and dealing with any retaliation that comes as a result of your claim. With retaliation, the key is proving that your employer had negative intent related to filing your wage theft claim, so having an expert working on your case is extremely important.

How an Employment Lawyer Can Help

If you believe you are the victim of wage theft or retaliation as a result of filing a claim, hiring an employment lawyer can help to ensure that your complaint is filed properly and that your rights against retaliation are upheld. As experts in the field, they understand the kinds of evidence needed and even though hiring a lawyer does not guarantee that you will win your case, it will greatly increase your chances of success.

It also helps to have an advocate working on your side through this stressful process. Even though you are protected from retaliation, your employer might attempt to intimidate you and so your attorney can help document any incidents of retaliation and respond accordingly.

Fill out the Free Case Evaluation form to learn how an employment lawyer might be able to help you.

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