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Connelly v. Dan Lepke Trucking LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

October 16, 2019




         Plaintiffs sued their former employers, defendants Dan Lepke Trucking LLC and Lepke Trucking & Excavating LLC, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wisconsin law. The parties have settled all claims save one: Timothy Connelly's claim that defendants violated Wis.Stat. § 103.455 by deducting money from his paycheck without following the statute's procedures. See Dkt. 192. Connelly now moves for summary judgment on that claim. Dkt. 167. The court will grant Connelly's motion because the undisputed facts show that defendants violated § 103.455.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Connelly began working for defendants in 2012 as a truck driver. His tasks included picking up and delivering construction materials with defendants' trucks and performing other miscellaneous work at construction sites.

         In 2013, defendants contended that Connelly, while on the job, backed one of their trucks into another vehicle. After defendants confronted Connelly about the accident and he provided no explanation for his actions, defendants terminated him. Defendants later agreed to rehire Connelly if he paid for the damage to the truck. According to defendants, Connelly did not have money to pay for the damage, so he asked defendants to deduct the money from his paychecks. Between July and October 2013, defendants deducted a total of $4, 138 from 11 of Connelly's paychecks. Defendants did not obtain Connelly's authorization for the deductions in writing.


         A. Subject matter jurisdiction

         Plaintiffs rely solely on 28 U.S.C. § 1367 as a basis for exercising jurisdiction over their state-law claims. Under § 1367(c)(3), the general rule is that a court should relinquish jurisdiction over state-law claims when all federal claims are resolved. Burritt v. Ditlefsen, 807 F.3d 239, 252 (7th Cir. 2015). Although the parties have settled all the federal claims, it is appropriate to retain jurisdiction in this case because the remaining state-law claim is not complicated and its resolution is clear from the text of § 103.455. See Cortezano v. Salin Bank & Trust Co., 680 F.3d 936, 941 (7th Cir. 2012) (“When the resolution of [the state-law] claims is clear, . . . the court may choose to decide them.”).

         B. Merits

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Because the relevant facts in this case aren't disputed, the question before the court is whether the undisputed facts entitle Connelly to judgment as a matter of law. The answer to that question begins and ends with the text of Wisconsin Statute § 103.455:

No employer may make any deduction from the wages due or earned by any employee, who is not an independent contractor, for defective or faulty workmanship, lost or stolen property or damage to property, unless the employee authorizes the employer in writing to make that deduction or unless the employer and a representative designated by the employee determine that the defective or faulty workmanship, loss, theft or damage is due to the employee's negligence, carelessness, or willful and intentional conduct, or unless the employee is found guilty or held liable in a court of competent jurisdiction by reason of that negligence, carelessness, or willful and intentional conduct. If any deduction is made or credit taken by any employer that is not in accordance with this section, the employer shall be liable for twice the amount of the deduction or credit taken in a civil action brought by the employee. Any agreement entered into between an employer and employee that is contrary to this section shall be void.

         The application of this statute to the facts of this case is straightforward. Defendants deducted wages from Connelly's paychecks to pay for property damage that defendants say Connelly caused. But Connelly didn't authorize the deductions in writing, Connelly's representative didn't determine that Connelly was at fault, and no court held that Connelly was liable for the damage. So defendants violated § 103.455 and Connelly is entitled to summary judgment.

         Defendants resist this conclusion on three grounds: (1) the deductions were for a loan to Connelly and not for damage to property; (2) the statute does not apply because Connelly was not employed at the time he agreed to the deductions; and (3) defendants ...

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