Katisha Ednacot claimed that her employer, Mesa Medical Group, stole her money -- wages she had earned and was owed -- and used the money to cover its portion of FICA and federal unemployment taxes it owed. She pleaded claims of conversion, breach of contract and failure to pay earned wages under Kentucky's wage and hour law, KRS 337.385. Nevertheless, her suit was removed to federal court, recast as one seeking to recover wrongfully withheld taxes and then dismissed, because claims for wrongfully withheld taxes must first be presented to the IRS.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Ednacot's suit, Ednacot v. Mesa Medical Group, based on a prior ruling in Berera v. Mesa Medical Group. Being bound by the prior precedential decision Judge Alice Batchelder concurring in the ruling but recognized the essence of Ednacot's claim: that her earned wages had been stolen by her employer and then used to pay off the employer's obligations as to FICA and federal unemployment taxes. Wage theft is wage theft as Judge Batchelder so eloquently stated:
But what a thief does with his loot is immaterial to the victim's claim against him.
The Sixth Circuit denied en banc review of the Berera case; perhaps Judge Batchelder's analysis will spur the court to reconsider that and grant en banc review in this instance. Hopefully, it will not prove that the court's misguided opinion in Berera lives to create a wage theft shelter.