"But What Can I Do About It?": How To Enforce Your Employee Rights Under The NLRA And The FLSA


Mason Wimberley
Director of Technology & Staff Reporter (2021 – 2022)


Two pivotal federal laws exist to guarantee workers’ essential rights: the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The NLRA protects employees’ right to organize, bargain collectively with their employers, and engage in concerted activity (such as discussing terms and conditions of employment with fellow employees).1 For more information concerning employee rights under the NLRA, click here. The FLSA, on the other hand, provides for a minimum wage, overtime pay, and sets standards for child labor practices.2 To read more about what is and is not covered by the FLSA, click here.

It is important to understand what each law protects so that, when you report a violation of a right, you will follow the proper protocol for that right’s respective law. While discussing your complaint with a lawyer may be helpful, it is not necessary to hire a lawyer to go through the process of reporting a NLRA or FLSA violation.

How Do I Report A Violation Of The NLRA?

Before you file a complaint, you will need to have certain information ready:

  • your contact information;
  • the contact information for the employer or union that you are filing the complaint against;
  • the number of employees employed at the relevant place of employment; and
  • a description of the violation, including when it happened and why you believe you were discriminated against.34

Note: you do not have to be an employee directly affected by the violation to validly file a complaint.5

Complaints against an employer or union must be filed in a Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).6 This is usually done with the help of an Information Officer, and it must be done within six months of the alleged violation.7 You can find your NLRB Regional Office here. There is also the option to e-file a complaint here. Charge forms used for a complaint can be accessed here.

After you file, the NLRB Regional Office will investigate the complaint, and if it finds that your claim has merit, it will issue a complaint.8 A decision either way as to the merit of a charge usually occurs within seven to fourteen weeks.9 If the NLRB Regional Office decides to dismiss the charge, you can submit an appeal to the Office of Appeals in Washington, D.C., within two weeks of the dismissal.10

How Do I Report A Violation Of The FLSA?

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which operates under the U.S. Department of Labor, enforces the FLSA. When an investigation by the WHD uncovers violations, the Department of Labor can recover back wages—the wages the employee should have been paid in the first place—and liquidated damages, an additional form of compensation for the harm to the employee.11 You can find your local WHD office, where you can speak with personnel regarding your complaint, here. Because there is a two-year time limit for reporting occurred.12

To file a complaint, you will need the following information:

  • your contact information;
  • the name of the company where you work(ed);
  • the location of the company;
  • a phone number for the company;
  • the name of an owner or manager of the company;
  • a title or description of the work that you performed;
  • how and when you were paid (By cash or check? On what day(s)? How frequently?); and
  • additional information, such as copies of pay stubs, records of the hours you worked, and information on your employer’s pay practices.13

All complaints are kept confidential.14 Importantly, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting violations or for speaking with investigators.15

Conclusion

Although it may be tempting to feel powerless as an employee, there are avenues available for enforcing worker protections—avenues that do not require you to hire an attorney or to go to great expense at all—which shield you from retaliation. If you are concerned that you have been subject to any form of abuse by an employer under the FLSA or NLRA, do not hesitate to reach out to your local office of the respective agency.   


1 29 U.S.C. § 157

2 Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/compliance-assistance/handy-reference-guide-flsa (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

3 Note that neither the NLRA nor the FLSA protects against adverse employment actions based on protected traits such as race, ethnicity, sex, or religion. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the law you would want to bring a complaint under for discrimination on those bases.

4 Filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), https://www.worker.gov/actions/nlrb-claim/ (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

6 Frequently Asked Questions - NLRB, https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/faq/nlrb (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

7 Id.

8 Id.

9 Investigate Charges, https://www.nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/what-we-do/investigate-charges (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

10 Frequently Asked Questions – NLRB, https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/faq/nlrb (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

11 Fact Sheet #44: FLSA Visits to Employers, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/44-flsa-visits-to-employers (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

12 Frequently Asked Questions: How to File a Complaint, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/faq/workers (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

13 Information You Need to File a Complaint, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/contact/complaints/information (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

14 Id.

15 Fact Sheet #44: Visits to Employers, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/44-flsa-visits-to-employers (last visited Apr. 8, 2022).

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The information and opinions published by Accessible Law are offered for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

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