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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Brandy L. Walczak, Individually and on Behalf of Those Similarly Situated v. Labor Works - Fort Wayne LLC, d/b/a Labor Works, a 13-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916), our celebrated “Hoosier Poet,” is widely credited with the origination of the Duck Test; as he expressed it, “[w]hen I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”1 Brandy Walczak successfully applied for employment at Labor Works, received job assignments and paychecks, and was never fired or laid off. Nevertheless, when she filed a class action lawsuit against Labor Works under the Indiana Wage Payment Act, Labor Works argued that day laborers like Walczak are involuntarily separated from the payroll at the end of every shift and thus required to proceed under the Wage Claims Act. Because we conclude Walczak had a reasonable expectation of continuing to receive job assignments from Labor Works on the day she filed her claim—in short, that Walczak passes the Duck Test—we hold she was not separated from the payroll for the purpose of the Wage Claims Act and may proceed with her claim as she filed it, under the Wage Payment Act. * * *

Ultimately, we believe the drafters of the Wage Payment Act intended the statute to benefit the entire Indiana workforce, including day labor employees. Day labor is not a newcomer to Indiana’s economy, and the drafters of the Wage Payment and Wage Claims Acts were likely aware of its role in the state’s employment landscape. See, e.g., Indiana Bridges Historic Context Study, 1830s–1965 INDOT CC No. 050108, M&H Architecture, Inc. (Feb. 2007) (citing “Report of the Indiana State Highway Commission,” in Year Book of the State of Indiana for the Year 1931 1076–1077 (Indianapolis, Ind.: William B. Burford, 1932)) (stating that in 1932, the ISHC “employed 8,000 men on an hourly basis for day-labor”). Therefore, day labor employees are no less entitled to the statutory protections that the General Assembly has provided than any other Hoosier employees.

Conclusion. We hold that Brandy Walczak, on the day she filed her complaint, had not been separated from the Labor Works payroll. She may thus proceed in the trial court with her claim under the Wage Payment Act. We therefore reverse the trial court’s dismissal of Walczak’s claim and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 13, 2013 12:41 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions