United States District Court, D. Maryland
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
Blanch sues his former employer, Chubb & Sons, Inc.
(“Chubb”),  for a host of unpaid benefits following
his termination from that firm in early 2011. In a series of
prior orders, the court disposed of Blanch's claims for
retirement savings plan contributions, severance benefits,
statutory penalties, and breach of implied contract. Now
pending before the court is Chubb's motion for partial
summary judgment on Blanch's claims for unpaid bonus and
profit sharing under the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection
Law (MWPCL), since the court's original granting of that
motion was vacated in its August 28, 2015, order, in light of
Cunningham v. Feinberg, 107 A.3d 1194 (Md. 2015).
This motion has been fully briefed, and no hearing is
necessary to its resolution. See Local Rule 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the motion for
summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.
long-running litigation arises from Chubb's February 16,
2011, termination of Blanch from his position as an insurance
adjuster. (Blanch Cross-Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, Blanch Aff.
¶ 3, ECF No. 48-2.) After terminating Blanch, Chubb
denied him severance benefits because the termination was, in
Blanch's words, “for cause of an undisclosed policy
violation.” (Id. at ¶ 5.) Blanch appealed
the denial of severance benefits to Chubb's Employee
Benefits Committee (“the Committee”). (See Chubb
Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, Second Demand Letter 10/14/2013, ECF No.
47-2.) The Committee denied his claim because Blanch's
termination “was for ‘Cause' (as defined in
the Severance Plan) on account of his violation of
Chubb's policies, including The Chubb Corporation Code of
Business Conduct . . . .” (See Chubb Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
4, First Denial Letter 1/9/14, ECF No. 47-4.) Under the
circumstances of Blanch's termination, the plan precluded
the award of severance benefits. (Id. at 2.) The
alleged misconduct involved approving “several inflated
estimates by two contractors from whom he accepted gifts and
entertainment.” (Second Denial Letter 5/5/14 Ex. A,
EEOC Response Letter 4/18/11 at 1, ECF No. 47-6.)
performance bonuses were governed by Chubb's annual
incentive plan, which states that the employee must be
employed on the date a bonus is paid to receive the award,
unless the employee is terminated due to death, disability,
retirement, or some other reason with the consent of the
Organization & Compensation Committee of the Board of
Directors. (See Chubb Annual Incentive Compensation
Plan, ECF No. 29-1, at 2, 4.) Employees needed performance
ratings of “Met All” or better to be eligible for
an incentive reward. (2011 Bonus Award Guidelines - Active
Employees, ECF No. 85-7 at 2.) Chubb's profit sharing plan
states that the employee must be employed on the date a
profit sharing payment is made to receive the payment, unless
the employee is terminated due to death, disability,
retirement, or some other reason with the consent of the
Profit Sharing Committee of the Board of Directors. (Chubb
Profit Sharing Plan, ECF No. 29-2, at 3, 12.) The profit
sharing plan is not performance-based. (See
Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n to Def's Mot.
Summ. J. at 4; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Summ.
J. at ¶ 45.)
initially sued Chubb in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City
in June 2012. (See Compl., ECF No. 2.) He alleged,
among other claims, unpaid wages under the MWPCL. (See
id.) Chubb removed the complaint to this court,
(see Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1), and filed a
motion to dismiss, (see Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 7),
which this court granted with leave to amend Blanch's
MWPCL claims, among others (see Order, ECF No. 11).
Blanch filed an amended complaint, alleging unpaid wages on
the ground that Chubb had wrongfully withheld his performance
bonus, profit sharing payment, retirement savings plan
contributions, and severance benefits. (See Am.
Compl., ECF No. 12.)
2014, this court granted Chubb's motion for summary
judgment to the extent Blanch's claims were premised on
unpaid bonuses or profit sharing. (See Order, ECF
No. 35.) Blanch was granted leave to file a second amended
complaint as to his severance plan claims, because his
administrative remedies were exhausted during the course of
this litigation and he could now assert those claims under
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act
(“ERISA”). (See Order, ECF No. 35,
see also Mem. 1 n. 1, ECF No. 34.)
amended his complaint and subsequently filed a motion to
reconsider asking the court to vacate its granting of summary
judgment as it pertained to the profit sharing and annual
incentive claims under the MWPCL in light of Cunningham
v. Feinberg, 107 A.3d 1194 (Md. 2015). (Blanch Mot.
Recons. 2, ECF No. 50.) This court granted the motion to
reconsider (see Order, ECF No. 55), and vacated the
prior order to the extent that it granted judgment on
Blanch's claims under the MWPCL for unpaid performance
bonus and profit sharing (see id.). Chubb moved for
partial summary judgment on these claims on June 6, 2017.
(See Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 85.)
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
should be granted “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) (emphases added). “A dispute is
genuine if ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.'” Libertarian Party of
Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330
(4th Cir. 2012)). “A fact is material if it
‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.'” Id. (quoting Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
Accordingly, “the mere existence of some
alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat
an otherwise properly supported motion for summary
judgment[.]” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The
court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct.
1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor, Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted);
see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts,
780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th Cir. 2015). At the same time, the
court must “prevent factually unsupported claims and
defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v.
Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th
Cir. 2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774,
778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).
count four of his amended complaint, Blanch alleges Chubb
withheld unpaid wages in the form of performance bonuses and
profit sharing proceeds in violation of the MWPCL. (Am.
Compl., ¶ 46-53, ECF No. 12). Blanch claims he is owed a
$14, 000 performance bonus from 2010 and a $4, 042 profit
sharing distribution from 2010. (Id., ¶ 15,
17). Chubb moved for summary judgment on this claim on the
grounds that the performance bonus was too vague to be
enforced; Blanch cannot demonstrate adequate performance to
have earned the performance bonus; and that Blanch forfeited
his right to both bonuses through the misconduct that led to
his termination. (Def's Mot. Summ. J. at 12-14.)
MWPCL requires that employers pay accrued wages to employees
upon termination of employment. Md. Code Ann., Lab. &
Emp., § 3-505. The term ”wages” encompasses
“all compensation that is due to an employee for
employment, ” including bonuses, commissions, fringe
benefits, overtime, and “any other remuneration
promised for service.” Id. § 3-501(c)(1)
- (2). The MWPCL requires payment “only
when wages have been promised as part of the compensation for
the employment arrangement and all conditions agreed to
in advance for earning those wages have been
satisfied.” Catalyst Health Solutions v.
Magill, 995 A.2d 960, 969 (Md. 2010) (citing
Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. v. Fitzpatrick, 783
A.2d 667 (Md. 2001).
law governs Blanch's claims under the MWPCL. See
Blanch v. Chubb, 124 F.Supp.3d 622, 634 (D. Md. 2015).
Under Maryland law, once an employee “does everything
required to earn the wages, ” his right to receive the
wages vests and cannot be withheld because employment is
terminated prior to the date of payment. Medex v.
McCabe, 372 Md. 28, 811 A.2d 297, 301, 305 (2002).
“Contractual language between parties cannot be used to
eliminate the requirement and public policy that employees
have a right to be compensated for their efforts.”
Id. at 304.
bonuses, payments under both the performance plan and
profit-sharing plan fall under the definition of
“wage” in the MWPCL. With respect to the claim
for an unpaid performance bonus, Chubb argues that the
performance bonus plan is not definite enough for court
enforcement, or if it is so definite as to be enforceable,
Blanch cannot meet his burden of proof demonstrating
sufficient performance to have earned the performance bonus.
This court agrees that the burden of proof cannot be met.
While the requirements for obtaining a bonus award may be
sufficiently definite (see 2011 Bonus Award
Guidelines - Active Employees, ECF No. 85-7 at 2), it is also
clear that Blanch did not meet them. Blanch was terminated
for failure to comply with Chubb's company policies
governing employee conduct, including inflation of several
estimates. Chubb's termination of Blanch is
sufficient to demonstrate that Blanch's performance was
not meeting all of Chubb's expectations as required for
bonus eligibility, even if no performance review had ...