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In issue of first impression, COA reverses union decision

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Following denials from a union officer, three union panels and a trial court, three former union employees successfully convinced the Indiana Court of Appeals that they are entitled to payment for their accrued vacation time. But the COA opinion was not unanimous.

In Commissioner of Labor on the Relation of Stephen R. Shofstall, Edward C. Posey, and Deborah Posey v. Int'l Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO, CLC District Council 91, No. 49A02-1103-PL-263, three former employees of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades claimed that they should have been paid for their accumulated, unused vacation time when they were terminated in 2008. The union’s business manager/secretary-treasurer denied the request, and the workers filed internal union charges in protest.

The appeals court wrote that in this case, the dispute is not about the union acting as the agent for its members, as the union happens to be the former employer. As such, the court wrote that this is an issue of first impression in Indiana.

A union internal trial board heard the case in 2009 and denied the claims. The former workers – Stephen Shofstall and Edward and Deborah Posey – then took their complaint to the general executive board but were unsuccessful. The three appealed to the union’s general convention, and were again denied their claims. Subsequently, a trial court also ruled in favor of the union.

According to Indiana’s Wage Payment Statute, vacation time is to be considered deferred wages, unless a policy exists to the contrary, the appeals court held. In consulting the union bylaws regarding overall compensation, the COA concluded that employees are entitled to 52 weeks of pay and an additional two weeks of vacation time. The appellate court majority arrived at this opinion based on the use of the word “also” in the bylaws, whereas the union has claimed that the two weeks of vacation time is included in the overall compensation of 52 weeks of pay.

In his dissent, Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote: “The term ‘also’ surely cannot work such mischief as to stand the plain meaning of the relevant bylaws on its head.”

The COA remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the three appellants are entitled to payment for all unused, accrued vacation time – about $22,079 for Shofstall’s unused 35 days and about $43,820 for the Poseys’ 111 days.


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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