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THOMAS v. NORTH STAR STEEL CO.

May 25, 1993

CHARLES A. THOMAS, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
NORTH STAR STEEL COMPANY, INC., Defendant


Muir


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MALCOLM MUIR

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

 On October 23, 1992, the Plaintiffs filed this action pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2101, et seq. The events which form the basis of this action occurred on February 25, 1991. On that date North Star Steel Company, Inc. (hereafter "North Star Steel"), laid off approximately 270 employees at its Milton, Pennsylvania, plant. The Plaintiffs allege that they are entitled to damages because they were laid off without any notice.

 On April 1, 1993, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. Both of those motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

 The standard for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 56 is well settled. Summary judgment is not proper where a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party on a material issue of fact. Since a reasonable jury presumably needs more than a scintilla of evidence to find in favor of a party with the burden of persuasion, more than that amount of evidence must be produced by the non-movant in order to survive a summary judgment motion. The non-movant must present evidence beyond his or her pleadings to meet this requirement. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 459-69 (3d Cir. 1989). We first address North Star Steel's motion for summary judgment.

 In its motion North Star Steel argues that the Plaintiffs' claims are time barred because they commenced this action approximately 20 months after the events which gave rise to their cause of action. North Star Steel reasons that the appropriate statute of limitations for actions brought pursuant to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act is six months. In response the Plaintiffs argue that their complaint was timely-filed because the applicable statute of limitations is three years.

 The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act does not contain an express statute of limitations. In such instances the United States Supreme Court has "generally concluded that Congress intended that the Courts apply the most closely analogous statute of limitations under state law." Reed v. United Transp. Union, 488 U.S. 319, 323, 109 S. Ct. 621, 625, 102 L. Ed. 2d 665 (1989) (quoting DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 158, 103 S. Ct. 2281, 2287, 76 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1983)). However, that general principle does not apply

 
when a rule from elsewhere in federal law clearly provides a closer analogy than available state statutes, and when the federal policies at stake and the practicalities of litigation make that rule a significantly more appropriate vehicle for interstitial lawmaking.

 Id. (quoting DelCostello, 462 U.S. at 172, 103 S. Ct. at 2294).

 The Plaintiffs assert that the general principle should be followed and that the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law, which is three years, should be applied in this case.

 The Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 P.S. §§ 260.1 et seq., does not create an employee's right to compensation but only establishes a right to enforce the payment of wages and compensation to which an employee is otherwise entitled. 43 P.S. § 260.5(a); Weldon v. Craft, Inc., 876 F.2d 793 (3d Cir. 1992). The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act differs from the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law in that the former creates a statutory right to monetary damages when an employer violates its provisions.

 In Haggerty v. U.S. Air, Inc., 952 F.2d 781 (3d Cir. 1992), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit declined to borrow the statute of limitations in the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law in a case brought pursuant to a federal statute that did not contain a statute of limitations. The statute at issue in Haggerty was the Employee Protection Program which was an amendment to the Airline Deregulation Act. The Employee Protection Program "gave a protected employee not only a 'first right of hire' by any other air carrier but also a right to recall and [to] retention of seniority in his or her original air carrier employment." Haggerty, 952 F.2d at 785. That Program implicitly provided that an employee covered by it could bring an action based on the statutory rights that it created.

 In deciding that the statute of limitations in the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law did not apply to Haggerty's claim brought pursuant to the Employee Protection Program, the Court of Appeals stated that

 
the wage payment law is for payment of wages to employees, not for hiring claims, and it is premised on a contractual obligation that an employer has to pay wages and ...

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