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People ex rel Dept. of Labor v. Reinke

February 21, 2001

THE PEOPLE EX REL. THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
K. REINKE, JR. AND COMPANY/REINKE INSULATION AND KARL REINKE, JR., INDIV. AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COMPANY PRESIDENT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cerda

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Richard A. Siebel, Judge Presiding.

Plaintiff, the People of the State of Illinois ex rel. the Illinois Department of Labor, appeals from the dismissal of its complaint seeking overtime compensation on behalf of 27 employees of defendant K. Reinke, Jr. & Company/Reinke Insulation. Also sued was defendant Karl Reinke, Jr., individually and in his capacity as company president. The issue on appeal is whether the legislature intended any limitations period to apply to actions that are brought by the State on behalf of employees pursuant to section 12(b) of the Minimum Wage Law (820 ILCS 105/12(b) (West 1998)). We find that no statute of limitations applies to plaintiff's complaint, and we reverse and remand.

FACTS

On April 10, 1998, plaintiff, the People of the State of Illinois, filed a complaint against defendants, alleging that defendants failed to comply with the provisions of the Minimum Wage Law by not paying 27 employees time and a half for hours worked after 40 hours per week. The total amount of compensation allegedly due was about $29,000. The relevant time period was July 1, 1990, through June 22, 1993.

Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss the complaint in which they argued that the applicable statute of limitations was five years under section 13-205 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 1998)).

On June 23, 1999, the trial court entered a memorandum order finding that section 12(b) actions were subject to section 13-205. Therefore the only claims that could be pursued were those dating from the period of April 10, 1993, through June 22, 1993.

On December 16, 1999, the remaining claims that were timely filed were dismissed pursuant to settlement.

On January 14, 2000, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal from the June 23, 1999, and December 16, 1999, orders. Plaintiff in its brief appears to only contest the former order; plaintiff does not argue that the trial court erred in entering the latter order.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff argues that its direct actions under section 12(b) of the Minimum Wage Law for wage underpayments are not governed by any statute of limitations.

While section 12(a) of the Minimum Wage Law contains a three-year statute of limitations, there is none in section 12(b):

"(a) If any employee is paid by his employer less than the wage to which he is entitled under the provisions of this Act, the employee may recover in a civil action the amount of any such underpayments together with costs and such reasonable attorney's fees as may be allowed by the Court, and any agreement between him and his employer to work for less than such wage is no defense to such action. At the request of the employee or on motion of the Director of Labor, the Department of Labor may make an assignment of such wage claim in trust for the assigning employee and may bring any legal action necessary to collect such claim, and the employer shall be required to pay the costs incurred in collecting such claim. Every such action shall be brought within 3 years from the date of the underpayment. Such employer shall be liable to the Department of Labor for 20% of the total employer's underpayment and shall be additionally liable to the employee for punitive damages in the amount of 2% of the amount of any such underpayments for each month following the date of payment during which such underpayments remain unpaid. ***

(b) The Director is authorized to supervise the payment of the unpaid minimum wages and the unpaid overtime compensation owing to any employee or employees under Sections 4 and 4a of this Act and may bring any legal action necessary to recover the amount of the unpaid minimum wages and unpaid overtime compensation and an equal additional amount as punitive damages, and the employer shall be required to pay the costs. Any sums thus recovered by the Director on behalf of an employee pursuant to this subsection shall be paid to the employee or employees affected. Any sums which, more than one year ...


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