United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
Brian A. Weil and Melissa D. Fulk, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Metal Technologies, Inc., Defendant.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
29, 2019, this matter was remanded from the Seventh Circuit
Court of Appeals. [Filing No. 435 at 3.] The Seventh
Circuit instructed this Court to determine whether the May 1,
2019 amendment to Indiana Code § 22-2-6-2(b) can be
applied retroactively to the Plaintiff Class's
wage-deduction claims; and, if so, whether this Court's
June 13, 2018 determination regarding attorneys' fees and
costs should be revised. [Filing No. 435 at 10.]
These issues are fully-briefed by the parties and are ripe
for the Court's decision.
relevant part of Plaintiffs' action is the claim based on
I.C. § 22-2-6-2, which provides that an employee's
wages can be deducted and assigned if such assignment is: (1)
in writing; (2) signed by the employee; (3) by its terms,
revocable by the employee at any time; and, (4) agreed to by
the employer in writing. I.C. § 22-2-6-2(a). This
statute also provides that a wage assignment may be made for
certain purposes found in subsection (b) of the statute. As
of July 1, 2015, one of the permissible uses for a wage
deduction and assignment was “[t]he purchase of
uniforms and equipment necessary to fulfill the duties of
employment. . . .” I.C. § 22-2-6-2(b)(14).
filed this action seeking, among other things, damages for
violation of I.C. § 22-2-6-2. Specifically, Plaintiff
Brian A. Weil, individually, and the Plaintiff Class alleged
that their employer, Metal Technologies, Inc.
(“Metal Technologies”), impermissibly
made deductions from their wages to pay for the rental of
uniforms. From January 20, 2013 through April 10, 2016, Metal
Technologies used a certain form for this wage assignment,
and that form did not include the required language
indicating that the wage assignment agreement was revocable
by an employee at any time upon written notice to the
employer. [Filing No. 395 at 3-4.] Metal
Technologies conceded that this omission of the revocation
language on the wage assignment form was a violation of I.C.
§ 22-2-6-2, [Filing No. 395 at 3-4], and the
parties stipulated to the amount of damages to which Mr. Weil
and the Plaintiff Class were entitled, [Filing No. 395 at
11]. The Court accepted the parties' stipulation,
with a slight modification, finding that Metal Technologies
owed the Plaintiff Class $31, 039.96 for improper wage
deductions. [Filing No. 395 at 11.] The Court then
trebled those damages, by stipulation of the parties, making
the total amount of damages owed to the Plaintiff Class for
wage deductions $93, 152.58. [Filing No. 395 at 11.]
The parties also stipulated that Metal Technologies deducted
a total of $43.10 from Mr. Weil's wages for uniform
rental, and the Court trebled that amount and found that Mr.
Weil was owed $129.30 in damages for the improper deduction
of wages for uniform rental. [Filing No. 380 at 4;
Filing No. 395 at 12.]
April 10, 2016, Metal Technologies amended the wage
assignment form, adding the required revocation language.
[Filing No. 395 at 4.] Using this amended form,
Metal Technologies continued to deduct wages for uniform
rental from employees that chose to rent their uniforms.
[Filing No. 395 at 12.] Although the wage assignment
form had been corrected, Plaintiffs argued at trial that the
wage deduction uniform rental was still unlawful because
uniform rental was not one of the permissible uses listed in
I.C. § 22-2-6-2(b). [Filing No. 395 at 12.] As
noted above, at that time, one of the permissible uses for a
wage assignment was “[t]he purchase of uniforms and
equipment necessary to fulfill the duties of employment. . .
.” I.C. 22-2-6-2(b)(14). Plaintiffs argued that
“purchase” and “rental” are not
synonymous, and uniform rental is not a permissible use of a
wage assignment, and is in violation of wage assignment
statute. [Filing No. 395 at 12.] On the other hand,
Metal Technologies argued that “rental” is
synonymous with “purchase, ” and therefore the
wage deduction was permissible because the employees agreed
to such wage assignment. [Filing No. 395 at 12.]
a bench trial, the Court concluded that although
“purchase” was listed as a permissible use in
I.C. § 22-2-6-2(b), “rental” was not listed.
[Filing No. 395 at 12.] The Court disagreed with
Metal Technologies' reading of the statute, reasoning
that “[i]n ordinary usage, the terms purchase and
rental are not used synonymously.” [Filing No. 415
at 13.] The Court concluded that the wage deductions for
uniform rental were in violation of the wage assignment
statute, and it granted the Plaintiff Class $8, 102.04 in
damages for the deductions made using the revised wage
assignment form, an amount that was stipulated to by the
parties. [Filing No. 415 at 7.] On June 13, 2019,
the Court awarded Plaintiffs $99, 229.58 in attorneys'
fees for the wage deduction claims. [Filing No. 415 at
parties filed cross-appeals on several issues, including the
Court's interpretation and application of I.C. §
22-2-6-2(b)(14). [Filing No. 421; Filing No.
426]. Oral argument at the Seventh Circuit was held on
January 18, 2019. [Filing No. 435 at 4.] After oral
argument, on May 1, 2019, the Indiana legislature amended the
statute to explicitly allow wage deductions for the rental of
uniforms, and the legislature made this amendment
retroactive. [Filing No. 435 at 5; I.C. §
22-2-6-2(b)(14).] As of May 1, 2019, I.C. §
22-2-6-2(b)(14) now provides: “A wage assignment under
this section may be made for the purpose of paying [for] . .
. (14) [t]he purchase, rental, or use of
uniforms, shirts, pants, or other job-related clothing. . .
.” I.C. § 22-2-6-2(b)(14) (emphasis added).
29, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals entered its
opinion affirming in part and vacating in part this
Court's decision. [Filing No. 435 at 3.] The
Seventh Circuit stated,
If the law remained as it stood on the day that the case was
argued, we would affirm the district court across the board.
After argument, however, the Indiana legislature introduced a
wrinkle: it amended its wage-deduction law to authorize
withholding for uniform rentals, and it made that amendment
retroactive. Given this turn of events, we affirm the
district court's decertification order but vacate the
judgment and remand the case for the district court to
reconsider the wage-deduction claim in light of the new law.
That will likely also require the district court to
recalculate attorneys' fees and costs.
[Filing No. 435 at 5.]
on the Seventh Circuit's opinion, the Court ordered the
parties to submit briefs on the issues of whether the amended
law could be applied retroactively to the Plaintiff
Class's wage-deduction claim and, if so, whether the
Court's award of attorneys' fees and costs needed to
be revised. [Filing No. 435 at 10.] These issues are
now ripe for the Court's review.
Plaintiffs' opening brief on these issues, Plaintiffs
argue that the amendment to I.C. § 22-2-6-2 cannot be
applied retroactively because that would deprive them of
their “legally vested right in their earned
wages” and would violate the United States
Constitution's and Indiana Constitution's
prohibitions against ex post facto laws. [Filing
No. 442 at 2.] Plaintiffs argue that the $8, 102.04 part
of the judgment is earned wages and, if the amended statute
is applied retroactively and those damages are taken away, it
will amount to an unconstitutional taking. [Filing No.
442 at 3; Filing No. 442 at 6.] Plaintiffs
argue that their at-will employment constitutes a contract
and, therefore, retroactive application of the new law would
impair the parties' contract obligations because it would
release Metal Technologies of its obligation to pay its
employees their earned wages. [Filing No. 442 at 3.]
Plaintiffs also argue that the new law amounts to a bill of
attainder and an ex post facto law because it is
clear that the Indiana legislature was aware of the judgment
in this case and it was enacting the new law to “undo
this judgement.” [Filing No. 442 at 7-8.]
Plaintiffs also argue that there would be significant
consequences if the Court applies the amendment
retroactively, including the necessity for extensive
discovery and an entirely new trial, because Metal
Technologies was impermissibly “taking deductions for
uniform costs that were in excess of 5% of an employee's
disposable earnings, ” which is unlawful. [Filing
No. 442 at 8-9.] Finally, Plaintiffs argue that the
amount of attorneys' fees and costs should be increased
because: (1) Plaintiffs have incurred additional
attorneys' fees and costs due to the continued litigation
of this ...