Ninth Circuit Issues Decision Regarding Employee’s Retaliation Claim Against Employer’s Attorney

In Arias v. Raimondo, Plaintiff Jose Anrulfo Arias filed suit against his employer’s attorney, Anthony Raimondo, for retaliation after Raimondo tried to have Arias taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) during a deposition. Arias v. Raimondo, No. 15-16120 (June 22, 2017).  Raimondo was representing Angelo Dairy in a lawsuit that Arias had filed in 2006 alleging various wage and hour violations.  In an attempt to derail this lawsuit, Raimondo provided ICE with information helpful in determining Arias’ legal status in the United States, and offered to “make the necessary arrangements” to assist ICE in apprehending Arias just ten weeks before trial.  When Arias discovered what Raimondo had done, he settled his wage and hour claims out of fear that he might be deported.  Then, Arias filed suit against Raimondo for retaliation in violation of the the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) under the theory that Raimondo was acting as Angelo Dairy’s agent when he retaliated against Arias. 

The district court granted Raimondo’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Arias failed to allege that Raimondo exercised any control over Arias’ employment relationship.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal.  The appellate court analyzed the language of the FLSA, which provides that it is unlawful for any person to retaliate against any employee for filing any complaint under the FLSA.  The court clarified that only employers are generally liable in wage and hour claims because they exercise economic control over employees.  However, wage and hour cases are distinct from retaliation claims.  The Court looked to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) to help interpret the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision.  Under Title VII, the anti-retaliation provision is interpreted broadly to provide protection that extends beyond discriminatory acts that affect the terms and conditions of employment.

The language in the anti-retaliation provision under the FLSA is also broad, extending to “any person.”  The Court reasoned that Congress meant for the anti-retaliation provision to be far-reaching,  beyond claims limited to employers.  The panel reiterated that the FLSA is “remedial and humanitarian in purpose” and allowed Arias to proceed with his retaliation claim against Raimondo.

If you feel that you have been retaliated against by your employer, a coworker or any other person, please feel free to call Hunter Pyle Law for a free consultation at (510)-444-4400 or inquire@hunterpylelaw.com.