Evans v. Tiger Claw, Inc.
An administrative tribunal's decision is not entitled to res judicata effect in subsequent proceedings between the parties, if the initial decision was not subject to judicial review. The plaintiff, Christopher Evans, worked as a salesman on a commission basis for the defendant, Tiger Claw Inc., a start-up manufacturing company. Evans agreed to perform certain administrative duties at an hourly rate. Evans claimed that he and company officers, the defendants, David Hartmann, David Martel and Donald Martel, agreed that the first $10,000 in wages and commissions would be withheld and invested in shares of Tiger Claw stock. After accumulating $10,027.26 in commissions, he was paid for subsequent sales. Evans was never paid for the hourly work performed between Jan. 2003 and April 2005, when his employment was terminated. Evans filed a complaint with the Department of Labor for unpaid wages totaling $191,966.91. Following investigation, Blair Bertaccini, a wage enforcement agent, determined that certain costs were improperly deducted from commissions and Evans was owed $3603.67 in unpaid wages. Evans, unwilling to resolve his claim for that amount, withdrew his complaint. He filed this action against the defendants for failing to pay him hourly and commission wages and shares of stock. Following trial, the court rendered judgment for the plaintiff awarding $13,630.93, consisting of $10,027.26 for the set-aside commissions and $3603.67 for unpaid hourly wages. Both parties appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment, in part. The plaintiff successfully claimed that the trial court improperly concluded that the Department of Labor investigation precluded further recovery of hourly wages. Neither the statutes pertaining to wage claim investigations, nor the regulations promulgated by the Department of Labor, required the department to hold a hearing under the circumstances. Bertaccini's decision was not a final decision in a contested case and was not subject to judicial review under the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act. Consequently, Bertaccini's decision did not have res judicata effect for the plaintiff's wage claims. A new trial on the wage claim was ordered. For the defendant's cross-appeal, the judgment was reversed finding the individual defendants liable for the amounts awarded to the plaintiff. There was no evidence that any individual defendant controlled the plaintiff's hours, was solely responsible for his wage payments or was the specific cause of a wage violation.