In 2013 a woman named Natalie Gunshannon was an employee of a McDonald’s located in Dallas Township, Pennsylvania. At that time she was paid about $7.44 per hour. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania, in compliance with the federal minimum wage, rang in at $7.25 per hour. The owners of this particular McDonald’s franchise, Albert and Carol Mueller, claimed that they were, “committed to providing them the best possible work environment so (employees) can deliver the fast, reliable, service that our customers expect.” When Natalie received her paycheck she was told it would not be in the form of a check, cash, or even direct deposit. She was given a JPMorgan Chase debit card. Along with this card she was given a list of fees she would incur by using the card in certain situations. After Natalie learned that these fees reduced her paycheck below minimum wage, she brought a class action suit on behalf of other McDonald’s employees.
The Debit Card Debacle
Natalie, and several other employees, received their paycheck in a seriously unconventional fashion. The employees’ paychecks were deposited directly into a JPMorgan Chase bank account and they each received a debit card for the account. The debit card, as so many do, came with a few strings attached. For example if she wanted to take money out of an ATM she would sacrifice $1.50 for each transaction. If an employee wanted an over-the-counter cash withdrawal, to avoid the ATM fee, they would hand over $5.00 each time. If for any reason the employees were curious as to what the balance in their account was, they would need to pay $1.00. If an employee lost the debit card, or someone actually stole it from them, they would have to fork over $15.00 to have the card replaced; roughly two hours of work. After bringing the class action suit to assert the unfair practices of being paid via debit card, Natalie told a local newspaper, “I can’t afford to lose even a few dollars per paycheck. I just think people should be paid fairly and not have to pay fees to get their wages.”
The Appellate Court
As it turns out the trial court immediately agreed with Natalie. In Siciliano v. Mueller the court found that this practice of using debit cards rather than paychecks is in violation of Pennsylvania law. More specifically the practice violated the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law. The court reasoned that the law defines the appropriate form of payment as lawful money of the United States or a check. As the debit cards were not bills or coins approved for payments of debts, they could not be considered legal under the WPCL. The court determined that this was the plain language of the statute and ruled on first impression. The court ended by confirming a well-known truth, “reasonable minds can disagree.” It was on that understanding that the court immediately certified the case for appellate review. Should the appellate court confirm the ruling it is likely that employees will finally see the missing money from their paychecks.
If you have questions about how to file a civil appeal, contact the legal professionals at Brownstone Law today for a free consultation.