Thursday, September 23, 2010

wages - Wage Payment and Collection Law - attorney fees

Ambrose v. Citizens National Bank - Superior Court - September 21, 2010

Former employees were entitled to attorney fees where they prevailed on fee claim under Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. § 260.1 et seq., including fees for defending against the employer's counterclaims.

The employer's defenses to the WPCL claims and its counterclaim against the former employees were "inextricalby intertwined."

"Moreover, in light of the circumstances of this case, we find the trial court’s award of counsel fees served the express purposes of the WCPL by encouraging Appellees to pursue their wage claims and rebuff CNB’s attempts to intimidate them into dropping the complaints. . . .[T]he trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees prevented Appellees from having to exhaust their entire compensatory award in order to satisfy their legal bills. As the award promotes the purpose of the WPCL’s fee-shifting provision under the circumstances of this case, we reject CNB’s contention that the trial court erred in assessing all of the attorneys’ fees they incurred in this litigation."

The court also held that the trial court correctly decided that the employer's litigation conduct was in bad faith, since the employer was aware at an early stage that its counterclaims were "baseless" and "specious."