Tuesday, October 25, 2016

employment - wages - payment by debit card violates WPCL

Siciliano v. Mueller, dba McDonalds – Pa. Super.

In a class action involving an issue of first impression, the court held that mandatory payment of wages by payroll debit card does not meet the requirement of section 260.3 of the WPCL that “wages shall be paid in lawful money of the United States or check.” 43 P.S. § 260.3.

The WPCL states that wages “shall be paid in lawful money of the United States or check.” 43 P.S. § 260.3. The language is clear. A debit card is not “lawful money” and it is not a “check” as contemplated by the drafters of the WPCL.   The Legislature obviously did not contemplate the concept of a payroll debit card when it adopted the language of section 260.3 in 1961.

The term “check” is defined in the WPCL as follows: “A draft drawn on a bank and payable on demand.” 43 P.S. § 260.2(a). A “draft,” though not defined in the WPCL, is “[a]n unconditional written order signed by one person (the drawer) directing another person (the drawee or payor) to pay a certain sum of money on demand or at a definite time to a third person (the payee) or to bearer. A check is the most common example of a draft.” Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).

The term “lawful money” is not defined in the statute; however, its common definition or approved usage does not include a debit card. See 1 Pa.C.S. § 1903 (where terms are not defined in statutes, Statutory Construction Act requires words and phrases to be construed by their common and approved usages). The Statutory Construction Act itself defines “money” as: “Lawful money of the United States.” 1 Pa.C.S. § 1991. B

The use of a voluntary payroll debit card may be an appropriate method of wage payment. However, until our General Assembly provides otherwise, the plain language of the WPCL makes clear that the mandatory use of payroll debit cards at issue here, which may subject the user to fees, is not. S