Dallas Court of Appeals Affirms Award for Employee on TWC Wage Claim

On June 13, 2013, the Dallas Court of Appeals issued its opinion in JMJ Acquisitions Management, LLC v. Peterson, No. 5=12=00263-CV (Tex. App. -- Dallas 2013, no pet.) (now reported at 407 S.W.3d 371). This case involves an appeal from a wage claim decided by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Peterson worked for JMJ, which experienced financial difficulties. In February 2009, he agreed to work without wages, with the proviso that all of his back wages would be paid on September 25, 2009. JMJ did not pay him on that date. Peterson then quit and filed a wage claim with the TWC on November 18, 2009. The TWC entered an award in his favor for $66,000.00. JMJ filed suit for judicial review of the decision.

The Texas Labor Code requires an employee to file a wage claim within 180 days after the wages become due. JMJ therefore argued that the TWC lacked jurisdiction over any claim for wages that were earned more than 180 days prior to November 18. The Dallas Court of Appeals disagreed, upholding the TWC's findings that the wages did not become due until September 25. The court stated:

When a wage claim becomes due is a question of fact to be determined by the TWC. Chapter 61 specifically allows an employee to schedule payment of wages on a date other than a regularly scheduled payday. JMJ does not point to any provision in Chapter 61 limiting the TWC's ability to determine that the date wages became due was changed to a date other than a regularly scheduled payday. To hold otherwise would allow an employer to avoid an administrative wage claim merely by persuading an employee to agree to a payment date more than 180 days after the wages were scheduled to be paid. We conclude, therefore, that the TWC had the authority to determine that the all of Peterson's unpaid salary was due to be paid on September 25, placing the entire amount within its jurisdiction to award.

David C. Holmes is a Houston employment lawyer with The Law Offices of David C. Holmes

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