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Justices dissent on denying transfer in wage payment case

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Two Indiana Supreme Court justices disagreed with their colleagues about not taking a case on the state’s wage payment statute, issuing a dissent that described how they believe the justices should clear up perceived uncertainty about whether the law can be applied to certain claims before the Indiana Department of Labor.

Justice Frank Sullivan wrote a four-page dissent in the case of Anna Quimby v. Becovic Management Group Inc., No. 49A05-0912-CV-747, which the Court of Appeals decided March 8, 2011. Justice Robert Rucker joined Sullivan in wanting to accept the case, but Chief Justice Randall Shepard and Justices Brent Dickson and Steven David concurred in denying transfer.

Anna Quimby appealed the dismissal of her wage claim against Becovic Management Group in May 2008. She wrote in her application for the wage claim that the company owed her $787.31 for vacation and hours worked, and that she was assigning all her rights to the labor commissioner pursuant to Indiana Code 22-2-9-5. The DOL investigated and determined she should receive $590.39, and Quimby in 2009 brought an action in Marion Superior Court under the state’s wage payment statute, Indiana Code 22-2-2. Superior Judge Theodore Sosin dismissed her action.

In its ruling last year, the Court of Appeals held that because Quimby had assigned her wage claim to the Department of Labor where it was eventually resolved, she could not bring the action in court, and the trial judge was correct in dismissing her claim. The appellate panel refused to hold an employee is able to bring a claim before the DOL and then later bring the same claim in court if the employee is dissatisfied with the administrative result.

Arguing for transfer, Quimby said that she could not have assigned her claim to the DOL because the state agency is only authorized by state statute to take assignment claims under the Wage Claims Statute, not the Wage Payment Statute that her claim involved.

Sullivan said the statutes and administrative procedures aren’t clear about assigning these types of claims. He wrote that the plain language of I.C. 22-2-9-5 suggests the DOL may take by assignment claims like Quimby’s, or that it’s not prohibited from doing so, but that the Wage Claims Statute suggests that assignment may be limited to only those claims.

“There are likely many other claimants in Quimby’s position – claimants that do not have to but nevertheless seek the DOL’s assistance with their wage disputes,” Sullivan wrote. “Because the Court has decided not to grant transfer, I urge the DOL to examine this question and if it agrees with the Court of Appeals that in such circumstances it takes these claims by assignment, to revise its documents to make that clear to both the employee and employer, or if it concludes contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeals that it does not take these claims by assignment, to revise its form to remove this language.”

 

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