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Justices consider state back-pay suit

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

Almost a year after the Indiana Court of Appeals significantly slashed a $42.4 million damages award against the state, the Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments Sept. 8 on whether past and present employees can recover back pay and how much should be awarded.

Justices heard arguments in the case of Richmond State Hospital, et al. v. Paula Brattain, et. al., No. 49A02-0908-CV-718. This appeal by the Indiana attorney general’s office follows a July 2009 decision by Marion Superior Judge John Hanley, which awarded $42,422,788 million to 15,000 or more past and present state workers who’d fought to recover back pay for unequal wages earned during those two decades. The trial judge found that by requiring plaintiffs and others to work 40 hours a week in “split classes” during those years, the state violated the “equal pay for comparable work” regulation and breached its employment contracts.

But in October 2010, the Court of Appeals cut the period from which employees can recover back pay from 20 years to about two months. The judges held that certain employees shouldn’t be able to recover for that two-decade period but instead only for a time limited to 10 days before the class-action lawsuit was filed July 29, 1993, to when the state courts abolished the split-class system in September 1993.

In total, the judge’s analysis of the four classes translated to: $20,979,490 for overtime-eligible merit employees, $2,696,812 for overtime-exempt merit employees, $16,762,773 million for overtime-eligible non-merit employees, and $1,983,713 for overtime-exempt non-merit workers.

The justices granted transfer earlier this year, and during arguments asked questions delving into the various classes of employees and whether Indiana Code Section 4-15-2-35 and former 31 Indiana Administrative Code 2-13-1 apply only to merit employees. Questions also focused on the application and interpretation of previous caselaw – State Employees’ Appeals Commission v. Bishop, 741 N.E. 2d 1229 (Ind. 2001), (Bishop II), which was a consolidation of Indiana State Employees’ Appeals Commission v. Greene, 716 N.E. 2d 54, 57-58 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), and Indiana State Employees’ Appeals Commission v. Bishop (Bishop I), 721 N.E. 2d 881, 884-85 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999). In those cases, the Court of Appeals found employees were entitled to back pay for only a limited period starting 10 days before the respective complaints were filed.

Attorneys discussed why they believe or do not think that evidence shows the state was put on notice in 1988 rather than before the filing in 1993, and when the liability period begins using the methodology from precedent.•
 

Rehearing "Appeals court pares back-pay award" IL Oct. 13-26, 2010

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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