Halfway through its 2014 session, the Indiana General Assembly is considering two bills that, if passed, could significantly affect employers.
Indiana Wage Payment Statute – House Bill 1126 – Under the Indiana Wage Payment Statute, an employee claiming he or she is owed wages may seek treble damages (three times the amount of wages owed) plus attorneys’ fees. An award of treble damages and fees is automatic if the employee prevails, whether the employer intentionally withheld wages or simply made an accounting error.
H.B. 1126 would change that. It amends the Wage Payment Statute to require proof the employer acted in bad faith for an award of treble damages and attorneys’ fees. It also restricts the amount of attorneys’ fees that can be awarded.
In addition, H.B. 1126 would offer employers relief under the Indiana Wage Deduction Statute. Now, deductions from an employee’s wages can be made only pursuant to a written agreement signed by the employee. The agreement also must provide that it can be revoked by the employee at any time. The statute provides a list of 13 reasons for such deductions (e.g., for union dues, insurance premiums, and charitable contributions). H.B. 1126 would allow deductions for uniforms and equipment (up to $2,500.00 per year), reimbursement for tuition or employee skills training, and advances for payroll or vacation pay, as well.
Indiana Civil Rights Law – House Bill 1242 – The Indiana Civil Rights Law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, national origin or ancestry. H.B. 1242 would include veteran status as a protected category under the law. A veteran of the armed forces, a member of the Indiana National Guard, or a member of a reserve component would be covered. The bill adds an additional wrinkle in terms of damages available for prohibited discrimination. H.B. 1242 would allow recovery of compensatory and punitive damages for an individual who was discriminated against based on veteran status, even though compensatory and punitive damages would remain unavailable to all other discriminatees under the Indiana Civil Rights Law.