In Rosenfield v. GlobalTranz Enters., Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit Reverses District Court's Granting of Employer's Motion for Summary Judgment
In April 2010, GlobalTranz hired Plaintiff Alla Rosenfield as Manager of Human Resources. The company promoted her later that year to Director of Human Resources and, in early 2011, to Director of Human Resources and Corporate Training.
Throughout her employment, Rosenfield lodged multiple oral and written internal complaints to her superiors that the company was not compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and she repeatedly sought changes to attain statutory compliance. On May 31, 2011, GlobalTranz fired Rosenfield, and she filed a complaint, alleging that GlobalTranz and its executives had violated the FLSA's anti-retaliation provision, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3), and Arizona state law. The plaintiff alleged that GlobalTranz fired her for engaging in protected activity, that is, for complaining to other managers and to executives that GlobalTranz was failing to comply with the FLSA.
The district court granted summary judgment in the defendants' favor on the FLSA claim. Even though the district court recognized that Plaintiff had “advocated consistently and vigorously on behalf of ․ GlobalTranz's employees whose FLSA rights Plaintiff thought were being violated,” the district court held that she nevertheless was not entitled to the protections of § 215(a)(3) because she had not “filed any complaint” for purposes of that provision. Rosenfield voluntarily dismissed the state-law claim, the court entered a final judgment, and a timely appeal followed.
Appellate Court Decision
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the summary judgment in favor of Defendants and remanded this case for further proceedings. The Court held that GlobalTranz understood Rosenfield's “interactions” with the company to be “complaints” on the subject of FLSA compliance and because “FLSA compliance was not part of [her] portfolio, her advocacy for the rights of employees to be paid in accordance with the FLSA could not reasonably have been understood (if it was) merely to be part of [her] regular duties” as a manager. The Court did not address Rosenfield's state-law claim because Rosenfield abandoned that claim on appeal by stating that she would not seek to reopen it even if her appeal were successful. Rosenfield further concedes that she cannot refile this claim in any other court because it is barred by the statute of limitations.
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