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Bertolino v. Controls Link, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 14, 2014



LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Magistrate Judge.

I. Summation

For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 12) in this employment case bringing claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., as amended 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("FLSA") and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 260.1-260.45 ("WPCL") will be denied. As this Court's reading of the case of Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 24 A.3d 875 (Pa.Super. 2011) and other related cases makes quite clear, Plaintiff has stated a claim - on Defendant's contractual obligation to pay wages - under the WPCL. Plaintiff may, at this stage of the litigation, maintain a claim for punitive damages in light of the allegations of Defendant's systematic falsification of employee time records to evade its duties to Plaintiff under Federal and/or State law, the evidence of which will entail the same factual discovery as Plaintiff's other claims - which may proceed.

II. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff alleges the following facts in his August 18, 2014 Amended Complaint (ECF No. 11), which the Court accepts as true for purposes of the Partial Motion to Dismiss:

Michael Bertolino ("Plaintiff") was employed by Controls Link, Inc. ("Defendant") as a controls engineer in a part-time position from December 2005 until May 2009 and full-time from May 2009 until August 2013. Upon transitioning from part-time to full-time employment, Defendant assigned Plaintiff an annual payment amount. Defendant also specified several conditions for employment, including that Plaintiff would complete timesheets and work a minimum of 45 hours per week.

In February, 2013, Plaintiff was provided, and instructed to sign, an Employee Handbook. See Amended Complaint, Exs. 1 & 2 (ECF 11-1, 11-2). The Employee Handbook set forth Defendant's policies and procedures governing aspects of Plaintiff's at-will employment compensation and benefits.

Defendant calculated Plaintiff's hourly wage by dividing Plaintiff's annual wage by 52, then by 40. As a full-time employee, Plaintiff consistently worked more than 40 hours per week, and was at times required to work 50-60 hours per week; he was not compensated for additional hours. If Plaintiff worked more than 45 hours per week, Defendant falsified his timesheet to reflect 45 hours.[1] If Plaintiff worked less than 45 hours per week, Defendant reduced his pay by one hour for every hour less than 45. In one instance, when Defendant was requiring a 50 hour work week, Plaintiff's pay was docked for every hour less than 50. Defendant docked Plaintiff's pay for multiple other reasons, including voluntary or involuntary vacation days that reduced Plaintiff's weekly hours below 45 hours per week. Defendant also reduced Plaintiff's pay by one hour for every hour that Plaintiff took off for personal or medical reasons.

From May, 2009 until his termination in August, 2013, Plaintiff issued repeated verbal and written complaints to Defendant (including to his supervisors) regarding falsifications of his timesheets and the lack of overtime pay. Defendant refused all requests for correct timesheets or overtime compensation[2] and threatened to terminate Plaintiff if his complaints persisted.[3] In August, 2013, Plaintiff refused to perform specific additional work without additional compensation and Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment a week later, on August 30, 2013.

On June 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint in this action (ECF No. 1) alleging violations of the FLSA, the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1968 as amended ("PMWA"), 43 P.S. §§ 333.101-333.115, and the WPCL. In addition, Plaintiff brought claims for wrongful discharge and unjust enrichment under Pennsylvania common law. In response to a prior Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is now limited to the following allegations:

Counts I and II - Defendant (a) failed to timely pay statutorily-required overtime for work in excess of forty (40) hours per week, and (b) retaliated against Plaintiff for making complaints regarding falsification of his timesheets and failure to pay overtime compensation, in violation of the FLSA - i.e., Plaintiff asserts - through allegations not yet addressed by Defendant and as to which no discovery has yet been undertaken - that his employment compensation was subject to the provisions of the FLSA, that he was in fact a non-exempt employee. Cf. Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Reply at 2; compare Employee Handbook (ECF 11-2) at p. 4 (Working Hours - including "engineers" in the category of exempt employees "expected to maintain a minimum of 45 billable hours per week (or more, depending on management's expectation)"); id. at 6 ("Exempt employees are excluded not entitled to overtime compensation."); id. at 7 (similarly).

Count III - A contract between Plaintiff and Defendant was formed by both (a) Plaintiff's performance, as a full-time employee, of services for Defendant in exchange for the payment of wages; and (b) the Employee Handbook accepted by Plaintiff's signing on February 8, 2013. See Amended Complaint at paras. 58-64. Plaintiff worked for more hours than he was paid, and did not receive timely compensation or overtime compensation, owing to conduct by Defendant that was both willful and not in good faith, i.e., in violation of the WPCL.

The Request for Relief includes a request for punitive damages. See Amended Complaint at p. 10.

Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 12) seeks dismissal of Count III on the basis of the absence of "a written employment contract" between the parties, which it purports to be a "necessary prerequisite" to a claim under the WPCL. It also seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's request for punitive damages on the basis that Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish the requisite conduct. ...

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