Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hively v. Allis-Chalmers Energy, Inc., No. 13-106, 2013 WL 2557629 (W.D.P.a. June 10, 2013).

On June 10, 2013, the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania denied Defendant well operator’s motions to dismiss claims brought by well supervisors for over-time pay violations.

The Plaintiffs were well supervisors, who brought three claims against Defendant Allis-Chalmers: 1) violation of over-time pay requirements of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act of 1988 (PMWA); 2) violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL); 3) common law unjust enrichment.

The Defendant well operator moved to dismiss all three claims. As to the PMWA claim, the Defendant alleged that the Plaintiffs fell under an exception to overtime requirements because the Plaintiffs were employed in an “executive capacity.” The court found that the Plaintiff’s had plead sufficient facts in describing employment roles that lack executive functions because the “supervisors” were required to perform menial tasks, could not participate in the hiring process and were without any authority to contract with other parties on behalf of the Defendant. The court explained the “supervisor” title was nominal at best because it lacked key functions of an executive position.

The court also denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the WPCL claim. While the Defendant argued that the current scenario was without contractual obligation, a prerequisite for a WPCL claim, the court held that claims for wages under the PWMA may also be brought under the WPCL. Given the presence of the PWMA claims, the Defendants were not entitled to dismissal of the WPCL claims despite a lack of contractual obligation.

Finally, the court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim of unjust enrichment. The Defendant’s relied on 1 Pa. Const. Stat. §1504, which precludes unjust enrichment claims where a statutory remedy is otherwise available. The court distinguished between a remedy provided by statute and a statute establishing a right to recovery, and denied the motion to dismiss because the PWMA provides a right of recovery, but not a defined remedy within the meaning of §1504. Further, there was state and federal precedent that PWMA and unjust enrichment claims can coexist.

Written by: Garrett Lent, Research Assistant
Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center
June 2013

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