Sunday, December 16, 2007

employment - wages - WPCL

Inoff v. Craftex Mills, Inc. - ED Pa. - December 2007

Suit for wages on alleged oral, three-year guaranteed contract later memorialized in a series of writings. Plaintiff was a salesman in fabric/textile industry . Motion for summary judgdment by defendant, plaintiff's purported employer, granted in part and denied in part.

choice of law -
A federal court exercising its diversity jurisdiction must apply the choice of law rules of the forum state, Klaxon Co. v. Stenton Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496-97 (1941), so Pennsylvania law was applied to this case. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has adopted a “flexible rule which permits analysis of the policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court.” Griffith v. United Airlines, Inc., 203 A.2d 796, 805 (Pa. 1964). The approach “gives to the place having the most interest in the problem paramount control over the legal issues arising out of a particular factual context and thereby allows the forum to apply the policy of the jurisdiction most intimately concerned with the outcome of the particular litigation.” Id. (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Babcock v. Jackson, 191 N.E.2d 279, 283 (N.Y. 1963)). The Griffith “interest/contacts” approach applies to contract disputes. Restatement 2d, Conflict sec. 188(2).

what was the parties' contract?
The defendant claims that plaintiff is an indpt. contractor whose employment was terminable at will. Plaintiff alleges another contract. “Pennsylvania law requires that a plaintiff seeking to proceed with a breach of contract action must establish ‘(1) the existence of a contract, including its essential terms, (2) a breach of a duty imposed by the contract[,] and (3) resultant damages.’” ...The first element is at issue . For a valid contract to exist, there must have been a “meeting of the minds” between the parties. A meeting of the minds is found where “both parties mutually assent to the same thing, as evidenced by an offer and its acceptance.” Since there was a genuine issue of some material facts, no summary judgment granted.

wage payment and collection law -
State statute applies only to employees,not indpt contractors . The defendant claims that plaintiff is not an "employee" under the WPCL. “Employee” is not defined by the WPCL, so Pennsylvania courts look to the state UC Law and the Worker’s Compensation Act’s definitions. ...According to the Pennsylvania courts, the following factors are relevant to the question whether one is an independent contractor: the control of the manner that work is to be done; responsibility for result only; termsof agreement between the parties; the nature of the work or occupation; the skill required for performance; whether one employed is engaged in a distinct occupationor business; which party supplies the tools; whether payment is by the time or by the job; whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer, and the rightto terminate the employment at any time.Surowski v. Commonwealth, 467 A.2d 1373, 1374 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1983). “[P]aramount . . .among these factors is the right of an individual to control the manner that another’s work is tobe accomplished.” Morin, 871 A.2d at 850.

Also at issue in the case and discussed in the opinion are: promissory estoppel and piercing the corporate veil to make individual corporate officer liable for the wages claimed.