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04/21/15


Darla McClure publishes “The Reach of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law Expanded”

By: Darla J. McClure

Publication Name:

The Free Sate Accountant

Media Type: Publication

The Reach of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law Expanded

The Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law (“MWPCL”) provides employees working in Maryland with the ability to bring a lawsuit directly against their employer. The Court has the authority to award three times the amount of the wages claimed to be due and owing, as well as attorneys’ fees, if the employee can establish that the failure to pay wages was not the result of a bona fide dispute. Many other states do not provide for such remedies, and, in fact, provide no right to file a private cause of action at all.

In the recent case of Cunningham v. Feinberg, 441 Md. 310, 107 A3d. 1194 (2015), the Maryland Court of Appeals held that an employee who worked for a company headquartered in Virginia was able to bring a lawsuit in Maryland under the MWPCL. Matthew Feinberg (“Feinberg”), an employee of a Virginia law firm, Cunningham and Associates, PLC (“Cunningham”), signed an employment agreement while in Cunningham’s offices in Virginia (“Agreement”). The Agreement, however, did not contain a choice-of-law provision. The facts suggest that at some point Feinberg lived in Maryland and was hired by Cunningham to provide legal services to its clients in Maryland (i.e., attending court in Maryland and generally handling claims in Maryland on behalf of Cunningham). The majority of Feinberg’s time, however, was spent in Cunningham’s offices in Virginia.

After termination, Feinberg filed a lawsuit against Cunningham claiming, among other things, failure to pay wages due and owing. He filed his lawsuit in the District Court in Maryland, which dismissed the claim stating that it was the result of a contract that was made in Virginia and, therefore, the MWPCL did not apply. Feinberg appealed and the Court of Appeals held that the legal doctrine of lex loci contractus, which basically states that the law of the place where a contract is made controls, did not apply to Feinberg’s claim because Feinberg’s claims of failure to pay wages really did not involve the validity, enforceability, interpretation or construction of the Agreement because the Agreement did not contain any provisions relating to the payment of wages.

The Court went a step further and suggested that, while it did not have to go there, had the doctrine of lex loci contractus applied, it would have held that Feinberg would still be permitted to file his lawsuit in Maryland under the MWPCL because the MWPCL falls within the public policy exception to the applicability of lex loci contractus.

Many Maryland employers have offices in other states with employees who work in those offices but may reside in Maryland or have some nominal duties which take them into Maryland. We are going to see many more complaints filed by employees seeking the remedies of the MWPCL given its far-reaching application.  

This article was originally posted in The Free State Accountant, a publication of the Maryland Society of Accountants. If you have questions about the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, contact our Employment Law department at 301-340-2020.


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