COA: Decision will not have ‘unintended consequences’

The Indiana Court of Appeals said a decision in a case that allows prisoners in an offender work program to enforce the statutory wage requirement would not have “unintended consequences” and reaffirmed its decision on rehearing.

In Adams, et al. v. ArvinMeritor, et al., 2015 WL 8319119 (Ind. Ct. App. Dec. 9, 2015), the COA ruled inmates at the Indiana Department of Correction Correctional Industrial Facility participating in an offender work program operated by a private enterprise had a private right of action to enforce the prevailing wage requirement. ArvinMeritor claimed the decision “opens the door to claims under every other generally applicable employment law that does not expressly exclude prisoners,” according to its argument.

The COA said its decision was based on Indiana Code and wage payment statutes that have since been changed, so this kind of lawsuit cannot be brought up again. The changes were made to stop cases like this from coming up in the future.

Also, the case was decided by the trial court on a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss. “Our opinion determined only that on its face, Adams’ complaint had stated a claim for which relief could be granted under Title 11 but cautioned that there may be other impediments to Adams’ recovery of the wages to which will be discerned at a later stage,” Judge Margret Robb wrote.

Judge Melissa May agreed the court should rehear the case, but dissented in the outcome. She dissented in the original opinion as well, saying Ind. Code 11-10-7-4, in which the previous opinion was based, should not be interpreted to provide a private right of action.

The case is Chuck W. Adams, Charles E. Howard, et al. v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., et al., 49A02-1406-PL-465.

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