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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Arkansas high court returns class action case over employee vacation pay

By John Sammon | Nov 30, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) – The Arkansas Supreme Court on Nov. 16 remanded a case back to the Union County Circuit Court asking the lower court for more specifics in a case of employees suing their employer over vacation pay they claimed is owed to them.

“The circuit court failed to comply with the remainder of Rule 23(b)'s requirement to define the (class action’s) ‘class, claims, issues or defenses,’” the Arkansas Supreme Court brief read.

As a result of not providing enough information in the case, the high court justices added they could not conduct a meaningful review of an appeal challenging the lower court's order certifying the class in the class action lawsuit. 

Plaintiffs John Pinson and Larry Murphy are representing themselves and other individuals employed by Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg LLC in one of 15 locations in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama from Dec. 31, 2011, to March 31, 2012. On March 23, 2012, Industrial Welding announced that it had signed an agreement with Airgas, a Pennsylvania-based industrial and medical specialty gas supplier, to be acquired by that company.

The opinion states on Dec. 29, 2014, the employees filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment by Industrial Welding for allegedly refusing to pay earned but unused employee vacation time. The complaint also named Airgas in the suit because it had purchased Industrial Welding.

According to an employee manual, employees were granted one week of vacation time after one year of employment, two weeks after two years and three weeks for three years of service, the opinion states.

Attorneys for Industrial Welding Supplies and Airgas in early 2015 filed with the circuit court to have the case dismissed.

On May 24, 2016, the employees filed an amended motion asking for certification of their class in the class action suit.

In June 2016, Industrial Welding filed a motion alleging that class certification was inappropriate and should be denied.

On Sept. 28, 2016, the circuit court granted the employee motion for class certification.

Industrial Welding appealed arguing that the circuit court had abused its discretion.

The Arkansas Superior Court in its review stated that the circuit court failed to comply with requirements contained in the state’s Rules of Civil Procedure by not including specifics on “class claims, issues or defenses” in the case. The high court said the circuit court’s only finding, a simple statement that the plaintiffs had satisfied all elements of Rule 23 in the Civil Procedure Rules, was not enough by itself.

The case was returned back to the Union County Circuit Court for reconsideration with instructions.

Supreme Court Justice Robyn F. Wynne voiced a dissenting vote. Wynne contended the additional findings the circuit court had been ordered to make was outside the high court's jurisdiction, and it was unnecessary to remand back in making a judgment on the appeal.      

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Arkansas Supreme Court