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Attorneys’ Fees Added to Award in Wage-Collection Case

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in Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources

The Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collections Law (WPCL), the state law that requires you to pay workers on time, also says you must pay employees' legal fees when you violate the law.

As a new court ruling shows, you must even pay employees' legal fees when the employee files a breach of contract lawsuit alleging that you violated an employment contract by failing to pay promised wages.

Bottom line: Any time you owe wages in a collection case, prepare to write a bigger check to pay for the employee's attorney, too.

Case in point: Steve Voracek went to work for Crown Castle USA as its national sales director.

Voracek signed a one-year noncompete clause after Crown agreed it would pay him a year's salary if it terminated him.

Voracek, as well as the hiring manager, read over a written employment contract with the severance clause. But the contract they signed had omitted the clause by mistake.

When Crown terminated Voracek, it refused to pay him severance since the clause wasn't in the signed contract. He hired an attorney and sued under the WPCL.

The trial court reinstated the missing clause in the contract and added attorneys' fees to the award.

The Superior Court upheld the decision, reasoning that the attorneys' fee provision applied to any lawsuit seeking wage payment, including contract claims. (Voracek v. Crown Castle USA, No. 141 WDA 2005, Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 2006)  

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