Case: 1:13-cv-07322 Document #: 1 Filed: 10/11/13 Page 1 of 7 PageID #:1

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION JAMES B. WHITNEY and THE BLOOM AGENCY, INC., Plaintiffs, v. TALLGRASS BEEF COMPANY LLC and WILLIAM H. KURTIS, Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )

Case No. 13-cv-7322

COMPLAINT Plaintiffs, JAMES B. WHITNEY and THE BLOOM AGENCY, INC., by and through their undersigned attorneys, and for their Complaint against Defendants TALLGRASS BEEF COMPANY LLC and WILLIAM H. KURTIS, state as follows. NATURE OF THE CASE 1. This is an action stemming from violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and

Collection Act, 820 ILCS 115/1 (“IWPCA”) and breach of contract for Defendants’ failure to pay an employee wages and to pay a consultant compensation for work completed and accepted by Defendants. PARTIES 2. Plaintiff James B. Whitney (“Whitney”) is a citizen of North Carolina. Whitney

was employed by Tallgrass Beef Company LLC as its Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”) from December 2008 through 2011. Whitney performed

services on behalf of Tallgrass within this judicial district. Whitney is an “employee” within the meaning of the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/2.

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3.

Plaintiff The Bloom Agency, Inc. (“Bloom Agency”) is a North Carolina

corporation which has its principal place of business in North Carolina. Tallgrass engaged the Bloom Agency in July 2009 to develop and implement a marketing plan for Tallgrass. 4. Tallgrass Beef Company LLC (“Tallgrass”) is a Delaware limited liability

company which has its principal place of business in Illinois. Tallgrass is a single-member limited liability company. Its sole member, Defendant William H. Kurtis, is a citizen of Illinois. Tallgrass is a producer and distributor of grass-fed beef. Tallgrass maintains an office in this judicial district and sells a substantial amount of its products to restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers within this judicial district. Tallgrass is an “employer” within the meaning of the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/2. 5. Defendant William H. Kurtis (“Kurtis”) is a citizen of Illinois. Kurtis is the

President and sole member of Tallgrass. Kurtis is an “employer” within the meaning of the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/2 & 13. JURISDICTION & VENUE 6. Jurisdiction is proper in this court based upon the Court’s diversity jurisdiction

pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). 7. Venue is proper in this judicial district pursuant to § 1391(b) in that a substantial

part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in this judicial district and Defendants maintained offices and transacted business within this jurisdiction. BACKGROUND 8. Tallgrass was founded in 2005 by Kurtis. Tallgrass is a producer and distributor

of grass-fed beef. Tallgrass sells its products to restaurants, grocery stores, and consumers across the country.

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9.

In or around December 2008, Tallgrass employed Whitney as the company’s

CFO. Whitney remained an employee of Tallgrass through 2011. 10. To date, there are significant amounts owed to Whitney for back wages and

reimbursable expenses. Attempts by Whitney to collect on the amounts due from Tallgrass have yielded no success. 11. In July 2009, the Bloom Agency presented to Kurtis, Whitney, and Dr. Allen

Williams (then acting CEO of Tallgrass) an initial marketing proposal for Tallgrass. As a result of the presentation, Tallgrass engaged the Bloom Agency to develop and implement a thorough marketing plan for Tallgrass. 12. Pursuant to the agreement, the Bloom Agency completed a thorough marketing In addition, the Bloom Agency implemented the marketing plan by

plan for Tallgrass.

completing various tasks, including, but not limited to, designing Tallgrass’ website, conductin g email campaigns on behalf of Tallgrass, and designing Tallgrass’ marketing collateral and packaging materials. The Bloom Agency submitted invoices to Tallgrass for the services it rendered. Attempts by the Bloom Agency to collect on the amounts due from Tallgrass have yielded no success. 13. 820 ILCS 115/5 provides that every employer shall pay the final compensation of

separated employees in full, no later than the next regularly scheduled payday for each employee. The monetary equivalent of all earned vacation pay shall be paid as part of the employee's final compensation. Id. Final compensation is defined by the IWPCA as not only

including wages, earned bonuses, earned vacation and holidays, but also “any other compensation owed the employee by the employer pursuant to an employment contract or agreement between the two parties.” 820 ILCS 115/2.

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14.

820 ILCS 115/13 provides that, in addition to the employee's employer, any

officers of a corporation or agents of an employer who knowingly permit an employer to violate the provisions of the IWPCA “shall be deemed to be the employers of the employees of the corporation” for purposes of the IWPCA. Such an officer employer is personally liable under the IWPCA. 56 Ill. Admin. Code §300.620. 15. 820 ILCS 115/14(a) provides that any employee not timely paid final

compensation by his employer shall be entitled to recover through a civil action the amount of any such underpayments plus damages of two percent (2%) of the amount of any such underpayments for each month during which such underpayments remain unpaid. In such a civil action, “such employee shall also recover costs and all reasonable attorney’s fees.” Id. 16. A Regulation promulgated pursuant to the IWPCA provides that an employer

doing business at the time the duty to pay final compensation arises is presumed to have the ability to pay. 56 Ill. Admin. Code §300.640. The Regulation further provides: “An employer who subordinates the wage claims of employees to the claims of other creditors has willfully refused to pay wages or final compensation, in violation of the Act.” Id. COUNT I – VIOLATION OF THE IWPCA WHITNEY V. TALLGRASS 17. stated herein. 18. Defendant Tallgrass and Plaintiff Whitney entered into an employment agreement Plaintiff Whitney adopts and incorporates the preceding paragraphs as if fully

whereby Whitney would serve as Tallgrass’ CEO and CFO. 19. Tallgrass promised and agreed to pay Whitney for his work and services

performed in his capacities as CEO and CFO. The process by which Tallgrass is to compensate Whitney is governed by the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/1 et seq. -4-

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20.

Whitney performed all of his obligations as an employee of Tallgrass and was

entitled to be paid his wages. 21. Whitney was not paid his regular wages since as recently as 2011, in violation of

the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/3 & 115/4. 22. Whitney has not been paid his final compensation, including, but not limited to,

salary, reimbursement for expenses, and vacation pay, in violation of the IWPCA. 820 ILCS 115/2, 115/3, 115/5. Whitney has been damaged in excess of $75,000. 23. Tallgrass willfully violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act by

failing to fully compensate Whitney. 820 ILCS 115/14. 24. Pursuant to 820 ILCS 155/14(a), Whitney is entitled to recover unpaid wages,

expenses, and additional damages in the amount of two percent per month for the failed payments. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff James Whitney requests this court to enter judgment in his favor, and against Tallgrass Beef Company LLC, and order the following relief: A. Judgment in favor of James Whitney and against Tallgrass Beef Company LLC for the back wages due, reimbursement for expenses, and vacation pay; B. C. D. E. Penalties of two percent (2%) per month as provided by 820 ILCS 115/14; Prejudgment interest pursuant to 815 ILCS 205/2 at the statutory rate; Reasonable attorney fees and costs as provided by 820 ILCS 115/14; and Such other and further relief that the Court deems just and proper. COUNT II – VIOLATION OF THE IWPCA WHITNEY V. KURTIS 25. stated herein. -5Plaintiff Whitney adopts and incorporates the preceding paragraphs as if fully

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26.

820 ILCS 115/13 provides that “[a]ny officers of a corporation or agents of an

employer who knowingly permit such employer to violate the provisions of this Act shall be deemed to be the employers of the employees of the corporation.” 27. Defendant Kurtis knowingly permitted Tallgrass to violate the provisions of the

IWPCA. Kurtis was aware that Tallgrass owed Whitney wages and made decisions so that Tallgrass made payments to vendors and other entities at the expense of, and which caused damage to, Whitney. 28. Pursuant to the IWPCA, 820 ILCS 115/13, Defendant Kurtis is personally liable

for Plaintiffs’ earned wages. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff James Whitney requests this Court to enter judgment in his favor, and against William H. Kurtis, and order the following relief: A. Judgment in favor of James Whitney and against William Kurtis for the back wages due, reimbursement for expenses, and vacation pay; B. C. D. E. Penalties of two percent (2%) per month as provided by 820 ILCS 115/14; Prejudgment interest pursuant to 815 ILCS 205/2 at the statutory rate; Reasonable attorney fees and costs as provided by 820 ILCS 115/14; and Such other and further relief that the Court deems just and proper. COUNT III – BREACH OF CONTRACT BLOOM AGENCY V. TALLGRASS 29. Plaintiff the Bloom Agency adopts and incorporates the preceding paragraphs as

if fully stated herein. 30. Defendant Tallgrass and Plaintiff the Bloom Agency entered into a contract

whereby Tallgrass agreed to pay the Bloom Agency to develop and implement a marketing plan for Tallgrass. -6-

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31.

Plaintiff the Bloom Agency fully performed all of its obligations under the

contract and is entitled to be paid pursuant to the agreement. 32. Defendant Tallgrass breached the contract by failing and refusing to pay invoices

when due to Plaintiff the Bloom Agency. 33. Plaintiff the Bloom Agency has suffered damages as a result of Defendant’s

breach in excess of $75,000. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff The Bloom Agency, Inc. requests this Court to enter judgment in its favor, and against Tallgrass Beef Company LLC, and order the following relief: A. Judgment in favor of Plaintiff The Bloom Agency, Inc. and against Tallgrass Beef Company LLC for unpaid compensation and for reimbursement of expenses; B. C. Prejudgment interest pursuant to 815 ILCS 205/2 at the statutory rate; and Such other and further relief that the Court deems just and proper. JURY DEMAND Plaintiffs JAMES B. WHITNEY and THE BLOOM AGENCY, INC., pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 38, demand a trial by jury on all issues so triable.

Dated: October 11, 2013

Respectfully submitted, JAMES B. WHITNEY and THE BLOOM AGENCY, INC., By: /s/ John H. Scheid, Jr. One of Their Attorneys

John H. Scheid, Jr. (ARDC No. 6226105) MURPHY & HOURIHANE, L.L.C. 161 N. Clark Street, Suite 2550 Chicago, Illinois 60601 Ph: 312-202-3200 Fax: 312-202-3201 -7-

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