|Rep. Bill Crawford|
An Indianapolis Democrat has filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that it's illegal to seize part of his wages to cover the fines he and others were assessed for the boycott that shut down the Indiana House for five weeks.To see the rest of the article, click here.
Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis -- so far the only one of the 39 House Democrats who participated in the walkout to file a legal challenge -- said he is not contesting the fines.
"My concern was due process," Crawford said. "If we're employees, they cannot under Indiana law take our money without us acquiescing or even giving us a chance to address the issue."
The suit, filed Thursday in Marion Superior Court against State Auditor Tim Berry, House Speaker Brian Bosma and the state, seeks the return of $2,500 in wages, plus pension contributions, that have been withheld from Crawford, along with interest, attorney fees, court costs and "all other relief appropriate."
"It's not a lawsuit over the fines. It's a lawsuit over the collection of the fines from wages," said Mark GiaQuinta, the Fort Wayne attorney who filed the lawsuit and a similar tort claim Wednesday with the Indiana attorney general's office.
Indiana law, he said, makes it a Class C infraction to seize fines from an employee's wages -- at least without a court order.
Actually Rep. Crawford might be right. The law on the subject is pretty clear. An employer can only deduct certain things from an employee's check, which are outlined in both state and federal law. If something is not on the list of deductible items, the employer has to 1) get the employee's permission to deduct; or 2) get a court order.
Outside of the Class C infraction, the law provides for stiff penalties for violating the law - the employee gets treble (triple) damages and attorney's fees paid.
Now it could be that Speaker Bosma will claim separation of powers and that there is an inherent power of the legislative body to punish its own members. Perhaps that argument will win the day, but I have my doubts.