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REKHI v. WILDWOOD INDUSTRIES

March 26, 1993

SATINDER S. REKHI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILDWOOD INDUSTRIES, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mihm, Chief Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#13), Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#8), and Defendant's Motion to Strike (#12). For the reasons set forth below, both Motions for Summary Judgment are DENIED. Defendant's Motion to Strike is GRANTED.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff is a resident of the State of New York; Defendant is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Bloomington, Illinois. The amount in controversy exceeds $50,000.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Although the admissibility of the DES evidence is an issue in the Summary Judgment Motion, additional facts gleaned from this report are the following. Rekhi was required to work Monday through Friday and over the weekends when needed. Apparently his boss asked him to work on a particular Sunday when Rekhi had previously planned to host out-of-town guests in conjunction with a religious holiday. According to the report by DES, Wildwood "fired him" because of his unwillingness to work on a Sunday. The Referee determined that Rekhi was not fired for misconduct because his unwillingness to work was "not unreasonable". Wildwood appealed the Referee's November 3, 1988 decision, and the Board of Review of DES affirmed that the Rekhi was not subject to a disqualification of benefits under § 602(a) of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act, Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 48, ¶ 300 et seq. (1987).

On December 12, 1988, Rekhi filed a claim with the State of Illinois Department of Labor for $55,770.00 in bonus pay, vacation pay, and severance pay to which he believed he was entitled under his employment contract. On January 11, 1989, the Department of Labor Wage Claims Division wrote a letter to Wildwood Industries informing the company that a claim for payment of wages or final compensation had been filed. The letter instructed Wildwood to either send a check or money order payable to Rekhi for the amount requested or send a written explanation within ten days objecting to the request.

After Wildwood denied that it was indebted to Rekhi for wages, a hearing was set on May 16, 1989. On May 23, 1989, the Hearing Division of the Department of Labor found that the Defendant was indebted to the Plaintiff in the sum of $6,407.90 and issued a wage payment demand to Defendant for that amount.*fn1 By letter, Wildwood was instructed to issue a certified or cashier's check or money order made payable to Rekhi for that amount within fifteen days or risk default penalties and possible criminal violations pursuant to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 48, ¶ 39m-1 et seq. (1987) ("the Act").

Wildwood appealed the Department of Labor's decision. On September 13, 1989, the Chief Hearing Officer wrote to Wildwood Industries denying Wildwood's request for a rehearing. He stated that the record showed that Wildwood received a full, fair, and complete hearing and the determination of the Hearing Officer was supported by the evidence presented. See Eleventh Circuit Court, McLean County, Order entered July 12, 1990.

Rekhi filed his original Complaint in state court on March 9, 1989. On July 12, 1990, the trial court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and determined that the Complaint was barred under the doctrine of res judicata. The trial court relied on Stafford v. Bowling, 85 Ill. App.3d 978, 41 Ill.Dec. 273, 407 N.E.2d 771 (1980) and found that the Department of Labor has adjudicatory powers and is a competent tribunal to hear and determine wage claims. Count I of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint was dismissed with prejudice.

The Fourth District Appellate Court reversed the trial court on September 30, 1991, 219 Ill.App.3d 312, 162 Ill.Dec. 375, 579 N.E.2d 1189, relying on the holding of Miller v. J. M. Jones Co., 198 Ill. App.3d 151, 144 Ill.Dec. 461, 555 N.E.2d 820 (1990). The Court held that the Labor Department's proceedings under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 48, ¶ 39m-1 et seq. (1987), are not judicial in nature and thus have no preclusive effect in subsequent criminal or civil litigation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court in dismissing Count I of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

Plaintiff then voluntarily dismissed the case in favor of a forum in federal court. After the case was filed here, Wildwood filed a Motion to Dismiss, or for a More Definite Statement. Judge Kauffman issued a Recommendation which this Court affirmed. The Motion to Dismiss was denied and the Motion for a More Definite Statement on Count II was allowed. The Order held that Count I and Count III were sufficiently related for jurisdictional purposes. The Court also held that Plaintiff had a right to sue for wages and penalties under the Illinois Wage Act cited above.

Subsequently, both Plaintiff and Defendant filed Cross Motions for Summary Judgment on Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint which alleges that Wildwood breached its contract with Rekhi by not paying Rekhi bonus pay, vacation pay, and severance pay after the ...


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