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Friday, May 30, 2008

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Harney, Brian v. Speedway SuperAmerica (SD Ind., J. McKinney), a 16-page opinion, Judge Bauer writes:

Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against their employer, Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, alleging that the manner in which Speedway pays and forfeits its employees’ bonuses violates Indiana’s Wage Payment Statute and Wage Claims Statute. The district court granted summary judgment to Speedway, finding that Plaintiffs’ bonuses did not constitute “wages” under Indiana law, and therefore the two statutes did not apply. At best, the district court held, the bonuses were a form of “deferred compensation,” which were forfeited when Plaintiffs failed to meet the bonuses’ condition of continued employment with Speedway. Plaintiffs now appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Speedway, claiming that the district court erred in determining that the bonuses were not “wages” under Indiana law, and that the retention element of Speedway’s bonus programs violates Indiana law.

We have reviewed the issues addressed by the district court and have determined that it ruled appropriately and without error in granting Speedway’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, we adopt the district court’s thorough and well-reasoned order, dated September 13, 2007, as our own and affirm the judgment of the lower court on all counts. A copy of the district court’s order is attached and incorporated herein.

Plaintiffs also move to certify certain questions of state law to the Indiana Supreme Court, and to stay this appeal pending a decision from the Indiana Supreme Court. Plaintiffs contend that there is no clear controlling precedent to guide the state law issues of (1) whether the Plaintiffs’ bonuses constitute “wages” under Indiana law; (2) whether the retention element of Speedway’s bonus programs violates Indiana law (specifically, Indiana’s Ten Day Rule) and is void as a matter of law; and (3) whether Speedway’s bon uses constitute “present” or “deferred” compensation. * * *

Our analysis in this case involves the interpretation of a specific bonus program of a single Indiana employer as applied to Plaintiffs’ particular factual circumstances. It is difficult to see how the determination of these employees’ personal circumstances could have a far-reaching precedential effect for others. As the district court’s opinion makes clear, the Indiana Supreme Court has provided guidance on when bonuses constitute “wages” under Indiana law. Because Plaintiffs are merely seeking a determination that their bonuses constitute wages, this case is not appropriate for certification.

We affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Speedway and deny Plaintiffs’ request for certification.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 30, 2008 02:29 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions