In today’s world, it is not overly difficult for a prospective employer to learn that an applicant has sued a prior employer under the FLSA. Can the prospective employer decide not to hire based on this information?
In Dellinger v. Sci. Applications Int’l Corp., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32861 (E.D. Va. Apr. 2, 2010), Judge Cacheris of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, held that an employer could do so, finding that the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provision only protects employees, and not applicants. In reaching its decision, the court relied on two district court cases from other jurisdictions with similar holdings – Harper v. San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, 848 F.Supp. 911 (D. Colo. 1994) and Glover v. City of North Charleston, 942 F. Supp. 243 (D.S.C. 1996). Judge Cacheris continually referred to the express language of the FLSA and declined to expand the definition of “employee” (meaning one who is “suffered or permitted” to work) to include applicants, observing that the plaintiff had never performed any work for the defendant.
While no appellate court has ruled on this particular issue, Dellinger supports an employer’s right to disqualify applicants based on previous filings of FLSA suits.
Of course while such information regarding prospective employees can be easily acquired in the era of the online social network, with extensive information about almost any subject only a click or two away through so-called “open source” searches, there are numerous potential pitfalls including potential FCRA violations and violations of “lawful activities” statutes (such as N.Y. Labor Law § 201-d) in gathering such information.