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Divided COA allows suit after wage claim fails at Department of Labor

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A worker who left employment at a Columbus construction company may pursue his wage claim in court after his complaint had been assigned to the Indiana Department of Labor, a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

A Bartholomew Superior Court ruling dismissed with prejudice John Fox v. Nichter Construction Co., Inc., 03A01-1202-SC-52, on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction because Fox had assigned his claim to the DOL in 2010. The agency has changed procedures and as of this year no longer requires that wage complaints be assigned to the department, the court noted.

The trial court denied Fox’s motion to correct error when he received a referral letter from the DOL. In its nonbinding administrative review, the DOL had found he was “ineligible to receive vacation payout,” but the letter said he could file suit.

“We reverse the trial court’s order and remand this matter to the trial court with instructions to enter an order that Fox’s claim is dismissed without prejudice under Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, including the failure to name the real party in interest,” Judge Kirsch wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Edward Najam.

“Thus, Fox may proceed to refile his claim setting forth the reassignment by the DOL.”

Judge Melissa May dissented and would affirm the trial court.  

“Fox chose to pursue his wage claim through the Wage Claim statute, and not the Wage Payment statute. That choice had the effect of precluding any future judicial action because he assigned his claim to the DOL and sought a resolution through the DOL,” May wrote.

The DOL no longer requiring assignment of claims is “a helpful step toward clarifying the procedures by which a voluntarily-separated employee may pursue wage claims,” she wrote, but said Quimby v. Becovic Mgmt Group, Inc., 946 N.E.2d 30, 33-34 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011) controls the Fox case.

“Both Fox and Quimby were voluntarily-separated employees who chose to pursue their claims through the DOL, and the DOL obtained a resolution in both instances. In light of the DOL’s policies and procedures in place at the time of their claims, both parties were, therefore, precluded from a second bite at the proverbial apple,” she wrote.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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