HR director sacked for standing up for employees

Ever worried that you could face retribution if you warn your company that its practices have to change? You’re probably protected by the FLSA, as one HR director found out in court

HR directors are often familiar with the pressures of ensuring staff are employed within the realms of the Fair Labor Standards Act. But what happens when HR professionals themselves are the victims? That was exactly the case for Michelle Kavanagh, who lost her job after standing up for two employees at her firm, CDS Office Systems.

When Kavanagh discovered that several employees had been illegally classified as exempt from overtime pay, she brought up the issue with her supervisor. When he asked her to make the issue “go away”, she explained that she could not sweep illegality under the carpet. And little more than a week after she conducted an FLSA audit highlighting the company’s problems, Kavanagh was given the flick.

Naturally, she filed suit, and a District Court has confirmed that she has grounds for legal action under FLSA by denying her nightmare employer’s motion of dismissal. Kavanagh’s lawyer declined to comment.

While the verdict is yet to hit court, the judge in the District Court made the point that Kavanagh has two bases for a claim: “even if (Kavanagh) does not have a Fair Labor Standards Act antiretaliation claim, (she) may still have a claim for common law retaliatory discharge under Illinois law,” the Judge’s statement read.

The news came just days after Florida HR director Heather Finch won a $150,000 settlement after she was sacked in what she said was a retaliatory gesture. Like Kavanagh, she had raised issues of illegal practices, including corruption and harassment, at her workplace before being let go.

And in Montana, fired HR director Lindsay Moe has filed a suit arguing her employment was illegally terminated. Her employer, Butte-Silver Bow County, said her termination was because she allegedly withheld details of a pending wage claim against the county.

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