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Jaworski v. Master Hand Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 16, 2014

DARIUSZ JAWORSKI, BOGUSLAW MOSKAL, and RYSZARD BESTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
MASTER HAND CONTRACTORS, INC., MASTERHAUS BUILDERS, INC., PURCON, LTD., WALTER F. BOCHENEK, and BOGDAN KULIKOWSKI, individually, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN J. THARP, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiffs Dariusz Jaworski, Boguslaw Moskal, and Ryszard Bester allege that defendants Master Hand Contractors, Inc. ("Master Hand"), Masterhaus Builders, Inc. ("Masterhaus"), Purcon, Ltd. ("Purcon"), Walter Bochenek, and Bogdan Kulikowski violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (the "FLSA") and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (the "IMWL") by failing to pay minimum and overtime wages. The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants violated the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act (the "IPWA") by failing to pay the general prevailing rate for work on public works projects, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the "IWPCA") by failing to pay earned wages, and the Employee Classification Act (the "ECA") by failing to properly classify the plaintiffs as employees. In addition, the plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated the retaliation provisions of the FLSA and ECA.

The Court previously denied summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the FLSA, IMWL, and IPWA claims in Counts I through V but found Master Hand, Masterhaus, and Purcon liable on the ECA claim in Count VI, since the defendants failed to allege any facts that, if true, would have allowed them to meet their burden of showing that the plaintiffs were not their employees for purposes of the ECA.[1] The plaintiffs now move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 on the liability of the three corporate defendants for damages under Section 60(a)(1).[2] In particular, the plaintiffs seek a determination that these defendants are liable under Section 60(a)(1) for the minimum and overtime wages provided for in the IMWL and the other earned wages provided for in the IWPCA. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Between 2005 and 2013 (the "relevant time period"), Defendant Master Hand operated a general contracting construction business that involved remodeling, restoring, and repairing residential and commercial buildings.[3] Defendants Masterhaus and Purcon were subcontractors to Master Hand and shared their principal places of business with Master Hand. Defendants Master Hand, Masterhaus, and Purcon comprise a single enterprise for purposes of the statutes at issue. Accordingly, the Court will simplify the analysis by treating the three corporate defendants as a unit and refer only to Master Hand.

During the relevant time period, the plaintiffs worked for Master Hand, which classified the plaintiffs as independent contractors. The plaintiffs began working for Master Hand between 2004 and 2006, and they performed carpentry, roofing, mechanical repair, restoration, demolition, tiling, sewer work, plumbing, and HVAC work. Master Hand did not pay the plaintiffs time-and-a-half for every hour they worked in excess of forty hours per week. At times, Master Hand also did not pay the plaintiffs the full amount agreed upon for the work performed.

II. ANALYSIS

Summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). This motion for summary judgment essentially presents a pure question of statutory construction. The plaintiffs seek summary judgment as to Master Hand's liability for damages under Section 60(a)(1) of the ECA on two alternative bases:

(1) the plain language of the ECA incorporates the substantive rights of the IMWL and IWPCA by reference, and (2) in the alternative, the ECA's language is ambiguous but the legislative intent was to enable construction workers to obtain those substantive rights without having to separately establish that they are "employees" under the IMWL and IWPCA. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the plaintiffs' motion on the second basis.

Section 60(a)(1) of the ECA entitles a person whose rights have been violated under the ECA to collect "the amount of any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost to the person by reason of the violation, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages." 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. ยง 185/60(a)(1). In ruling on the plaintiffs' prior motion for summary judgment, the Court held that Master Hand misclassified the plaintiffs as independent contractors in violation of the ECA and stated that the plaintiffs were entitled to collect "any wages, salary, benefits, or other compensation lost by reason of the violation, plus an equal amount in liquidated damages." Dkt. 84 at 16. The Court expressly reserved judgment on the question of what compensatory damages, if any, the plaintiffs were entitled to under Section 60(a)(1). The Court now turns to that question.

The plaintiffs argue that Section 60(a)(1) entitles them to collect back wages due under the IMWL and IWPCA. They contend that the plain language of the ECA incorporates the substantive rights of the IMWL and IWPCA by reference or, alternatively, that the language of the ECA is ambiguous and their interpretation is consistent with the legislative intent. Master Hand argues in response that the plain language of the ECA does not incorporate the substantive rights of the IMWL and IWPCA by reference and that the legislature did not intend to create "a two-tier system in which construction workers would be covered by all Illinois labor statutes" without having to meet the same coverage requirements as workers in other industries. Defs.' Mem. in Opposition to Pls.' Motion for Summary Judgment, Dkt. 94 at 7-8.

No court has interpreted Section 60(a)(1), either alone or in relation to other Illinois employment laws such as the IMWL or IWPCA. This Court must predict how the Supreme Court of Illinois would decide the issue. Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp, 499 F.3d 629, 634-35 (7th Cir. 2007). The Supreme Court of Illinois has outlined its approach to statutory interpretation as follows:

The fundamental rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. The best indication of legislative intent is the statutory language, given its plain and ordinary meaning. Where the language is clear and unambiguous, we must apply the statute without resort to further aids of statutory construction. If the statutory language is ambiguous, however, we may look to other sources to ascertain the legislature's intent. A court will give substantial weight and deference to an interpretation of an ambiguous statute by the agency charged with administering and enforcing that statute.... A statute is ambiguous if it is capable of being understood by reasonably well-informed persons in two or more different ways.

People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 202 Ill.2d 36, 45-46, 779 N.E.2d 875, 881 (2002) (citations omitted). In determining the plain meaning of statutory terms, the Supreme Court of Illinois "consider[s] the statute in its entirety, keeping in mind the subject it addresses and the apparent intent of the legislature in enacting it." People v. Perry, 224 Ill.2d 312, 323, 864 N.E.2d 196, 204 (2007). In addition to administrative agency interpretations, the Supreme Court of Illinois also utilizes ...


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