Seventh Circuit Notes Split Re Whether Verbal Complaints Are Protected Activity under the FLSA

Per Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., --- F.3d ----, 2009 WL 1838291 (7th Cir. June 29, 2009):

The next question pertinent to this appeal is whether unwritten, purely verbal complaints are protected activity under the statute.

Again, we start with the language of the statute. Sapperstein, 188 F.3d at 857. The FLSA's retaliation provision prohibits “discharg[ing] ... any employee because such employee has filed any complaint....” 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) (emphasis added). . . . Looking only at the language of the statute, we believe that the district court correctly concluded that unwritten, purely verbal complaints are not protected activity. The use of the verb “to file” connotes the use of a writing.

. . .

Other circuit courts that have tackled this issue are split. The Fourth Circuit found that verbal complaints were not protected activity in Ball v. Memphis Bar-B-Q Co., Inc., 228 F.3d 360, 364 (4th Cir.2000). The court recognized that the FLSA's “statutory language clearly places limits on the range of retaliation proscribed by the act.” Specifically, in interpreting the “testimony” clause of the FLSA's retaliation provision, the Fourth Circuit held that the FLSA “prohibits retaliation for testimony given or about to be given but not for an employee's voicing of a position on working conditions in opposition to an employer.” Id. (emphasis added). Although the Fourth Circuit acknowledged that the retaliation in that case-which followed an employee's statement to the company president that, if he were deposed in a lawsuit, he would not testify to the president's suggested version of events-was “morally unacceptable,” the court concluded that a faithful interpretation of the statute did not recognize mere statements to a supervisor as a protected activity. Id.; see also Lambert v. Genesee Hospital, 10 F.3d 46, 55 (2d Cir.1993) (“The plain language of this provision limits the cause of action to retaliation for filing formal complaints, instituting a proceeding, or testifying, but does not encompass complaints made to a supervisor.”) (citations omitted).

Other courts have found oral complaints to be protected activity, but it is difficult to draw guidance from these decisions because many of them do not specifically state whether the complaint in question was written or purely verbal, and none discusses the statute's use of the verb “to file” and whether it requires a writing. See EEOC v. Romeo Community Schools, 976 F.2d 985, 989-90 (6th Cir.1992) (holding, without discussion of the verbal/written distinction, that plaintiff's apparently oral complaints to supervisors were protected activity); EEOC v. White & Son Enters., 881 F.2d 1006, 1011 (11th Cir.1989) (holding, without discussion of the verbal/written distinction, that plaintiffs' oral complaints were protected activity); Brock v. Richardson, 812 F.2d 121, 125 (8th Cir.1987) (holding, without discussion of the verbal/written distinction, that defendant's mistaken belief that plaintiff had made apparently oral complaints to supervisors was grounds for suit); Brennan v. Maxey's Yamaha, 513 F.2d 179, 183 (8th Cir.1975) (holding, without discussion of the verbal/written distinction, that employee's “voicing” of concern was protected activity).


Eleventh Circuit Notes Split Re Standard of Review for a District Court's Denial of a Franks Hearing

Per U.S. v. Sarras, --- F.3d ----, 2009 WL 1661152 (11th Cir. June 16, 2009):

Sarras moved to suppress the evidence seized from his Tweed residence, alleging that (1) Ortiz's affidavit contained deliberate and material falsehoods and omissions and (2) a Franks hearing was required.FN5

FN5. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56, 98 S.Ct. 2674, 2676 (1978) (instructing that where a defendant makes a “substantial preliminary showing that a false statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in [a] warrant affidavit, and if the allegedly false statement is necessary to the finding of probable cause, the Fourth Amendment requires that a hearing be held at the defendant's request”).

. . .

Sarras contends that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to suppress evidence without first conducting a Franks hearing.FN37

FN37. “Generally, a court's decision about whether to hold an evidentiary hearing lies within that court's sound discretion and will be reviewed only for an abuse of discretion. We have not stated a precise standard of review for a district court's denial of a Franks hearing, and other circuits are split on the issue.” United States v. Arbolaez, 450 F.3d 1283, 1293 (11th Cir.2006) (internal citations omitted) (concluding that “[because] ... the more exacting de novo standard of review is satisfied here, we need not address the issue further.” (quotation marks omitted)). As in Arbolaez, we need not decide which standard of review to apply, as we discern no error under even a de novo standard of review. See United States v. Kapordelis, No. 07-14499, 2009 WL 1508342, at *19-20 (11th Cir. June 1, 2009) (same).


Fourth Circuit Concludes that § 2515 Does not Permit a Clean Hands Exception to Its Exclusionary Rule

Per U.S. v. Crabtree, 565 F.3d 887 (4th Cir. May 19, 2009):

Whether § 2515 should be understood as containing a “clean hands” exception to its exclusionary rule is an issue that has divided the circuits. The Sixth Circuit has concluded that § 2515 does not preclude the government in a criminal prosecution from introducing evidence of a recording made in violation of Title III if the government had no involvement in the illegal interception, see United States v. Murdock, 63 F.3d 1391, 1404 (6th Cir.1995), while the First, Third, and Ninth Circuits have refused to read such a clean-hands exception into § 2515, see Chandler v. United States Army, 125 F.3d 1296, 1302 (9th Cir.1997); In re Grand Jury, 111 F.3d 1066, 1079 (3d Cir.1997); United States v. Vest, 813 F.2d 477, 481 (1st Cir.1987). We agree with the majority and conclude that § 2515 does not permit an exception to its exclusionary rule in cases where the government was not involved in illegal interception.

In our view, the issue is resolved by the language of § 2515 itself. Section 2515 states, in its entirety, that

Whenever any wire or oral communication has been intercepted, no part of the contents of such communication and no evidence derived therefrom may be received in evidence in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before any court, grand jury, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, legislative committee, or other authority of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof if the disclosure of that information would be in violation of this chapter.

18 U.S.C.A. § 2515. The statute seems to clearly and unambiguously prohibit the use in court of improperly intercepted communications; we simply see no gaps or shadows in the language that might leave lurking a clean-hands exception.

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