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Woman suing for unpaid wages passes ‘duck test’

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Indiana Justice Mark Massa made repeated references in Wednesday’s decision to the “Duck Test” – if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck – in a day laborer’s lawsuit to recover unpaid damages from a Fort Wayne company. The justices found Brandy Walczak’s lawsuit may proceed under the Wage Payment Act.

Labor Works is a day labor service that has an office in Fort Wayne. Day labor employees don’t have to report on a regular schedule, but must show up in the office on the day they’d like to work. Even if they work a job the day before, they must show up the next day and may not be assigned to the same place.

While she was working as a day labor employee for Labor Works, Walczak filed a class action lawsuit under the Wage Payment Act against Labor Works for unpaid wages. Labor Works argued that her claim should proceed under the Wage Claims Act because she was separated from the payroll at the time she filed the complaint. She filed the lawsuit on a day she did not work.

The trial court ruled in favor of Labor Works; the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled her claim should proceed under the Wage Claims Act and go before the Department of Labor.

In Brandy L. Walczak, Individually and on Behalf of Those Similarly Situated v. Labor Works - Fort Wayne LLC, d/b/a Labor Works,
02S04-1208-PL-497, the justices ruled that the question of whether Walczak is covered by the Wage Payment Act or the Wage Claims Act is jurisdictional as the resolution depends on what the meanings are of “voluntarily leaves employment” and “separates any employee from the pay-roll” used in those statutes.

The high court determined that “separates from the pay-roll” used in the Wage Claims Act means someone is fired, and Walcazk was not fired so she need not comply with the requirements of the Wage Claims Act. She sought work and was given work after filing her suit.

“Labor Works may say that all its employees are terminated after every shift and rehired the next day, like phoenixes rising daily from the ashes, but its employees, unlike those who have really been ‘separate[d] from the pay-roll,’ have a realistic expectation that if they show up the next day, they may receive a job assignment. In other words, Walczak is more duck than phoenix,” Massa wrote.

“Day labor employees are no less entitled to the statutory protections that the General Assembly has provided than any other Hoosier employees,” he continued. Walczak may proceed with her claim under the Wage Payment Act.
 

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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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