wages - "employer" - "employee"
Hirsch v. EPL Technologies, et al. - Superior Court - October 16, 2006
Corporate officer found personally liable, along with the corporation itself, for unpaid wages to another corporate officer, because the individual defendant was "actively involved in corporate policy-making" while the plaintiff --although he had the title of a corporate officer -- was not.
The court held that a person's "title alone does not bar him from suing" under the Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 P.S. sec. 260.1 et seq. Noting the the WPCL does not define "employee," the court looked to the UC Law and Worker's Comp. Law rather than agency law to determine the right of a corporate officer to seek wages from his corporate employer and other individuals in the corporation who exercised policy-making functions, even if they do not have knowledge of the improper non-payment. "[S]cienter...is not required for civil liability [but] evidence of an active role in decision making is....."
Persons who are considered to be an "employer" in some context are still permitted to use the WPCL to hold their similarly situated fellow employers liable for unpaid wages," so long at the plaintiff does not exercise policy-making functions. "While evidence of status as a corporate officer...may be relevant, it is not necessarily dispositive of a party's status as an 'employer' under the WPCL."
The court reached this decision, noting that the purpose of the WPCL is to "removed some of the obstacles employees face in litigation by providing them with a statutory remedy when an employer breaches its contractual obligation to pay wages. The WPCL does not create an employee's substantive right to compensation; rather, it only establishes an employee's right to enforce payment of wages and compensation to which an employee is otherwise entitled by the terms of an agreement."