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ALLENDE v. WINTER FRUIT DISTRIBS.

March 21, 1989

FRANCISCO J. ALLENDE
v.
WINTER FRUIT DISTRIBUTORS, INC. AND ERIC SCHAKEL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEWCOMER

 CLARENCE C. NEWCOMER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 I. Standard of Review

 Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court should dismiss a case for failure to state a cause of action only if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984). Because granting such a motion results in a determination on the merits at such an early stage of plaintiff's case, the district court "must take all the well pleaded allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 664-65 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. County of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). As is appropriate, the factual background information that follows is stated in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.

 II. Factual Background

 Plaintiff Francisco J. Allende was employed by Winter Fruit Distributors, Inc. from September 1985 until his dismissal on October 17, 1988. Allende held the position of Vice President of Finance and Administration in the company's Philadelphia office. Defendant Winter Fruit Distributors was acquired by Western Agri-Management International in August 1988. Defendant Eric Schakel, a principal in Western Agri-Management, became the president and chief executive officer of Winter Fruit.

 On August 23, 1988, Schakel advised Allende and others that by the end of September 1988, a bonus system would be designed and implemented providing bonus opportunities for all employees. Schakel also met with Allende during September 1988 concerning Allende's employment. At the time, Schakel was aware that Allende had been offered employment elsewhere. Schakel urged Allende not to accept other employment and agreed to continue to employ Allende during the current business season. *fn1" In reliance on both the promise of a bonus and the promise of continued employment during the current business season, Allende rejected the alternative offer of employment in order to remain at Winter Fruit.

 Despite the various promises made by Schakel, Allende's employment was involuntarily terminated on October 17, 1988, and the business of Winter Fruit was relocated shortly thereafter to Visalia, California. Allende then brought suit against Winter Fruit and against Schakel seeking to recover unpaid salary through the end of the business season, and unpaid bonus, automobile allowance, and fringe benefits. Damages are sought for breach of the parties' oral agreement and violations of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 260.1.

 III. Discussion

 The WPCL provides in relevant part:

 
(a) Separated Employees. Whenever an employer separates an employee from the payroll, or whenever an employee quits or resigns his employment, the wages or compensation earned shall become due and payable not later than the next regular payday of his employer on which such wages would otherwise be due and payable. If requested by the employee, such payment shall be made by certified mail.

 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 260.5 (Purdon Supp. 1988-89). *fn2"

  The nature of the WPCL is not to create a right of compensation but to provide protection to employees in the event an employer breaches a contractual obligation to pay wages. Sendi v. NCR Comten, Inc., 619 F. Supp. 1577 (E.D. Pa. 1985). The WPCL applies only to "back wages already earned," Weingrad v. Fischer & Porter Company, 47 Pa. D. & C. 2d 244 (C.P. Bucks County 1968). *fn3" Whether the particular monies sought are "wages or compensation" depends upon the term of the contract between the parties. Sendi, 619 F. Supp. at 1579 (citing Heimenz v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Co., 75 Pa. D. & C. 2d 405, 406 (C.P. Lycoming County 1976). The contract between the parties also determines whether the wages or compensation have been "earned." Sendi, 619 F. Supp. at 1579. In their motion to dismiss, defendants' claim that because the complaint seeks recovery for wages due in the future and for a bonus pursuant to a plan that was never adopted, plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action under the WPCL. In his complaint, plaintiff states that he is entitled to recover the following amounts: (1) unpaid salary ...


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