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Dove v. Rose Acre Farms, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana, First District
434 N.E.2d 931 (1982)


Dove (plaintiff) was employed by Rose Acre Farms, Inc. (Rose Acre) (defendant), a construction company. Rose Acre’s president, Rust, created an incentive program that involved paying bonuses to employees for certain positive acts, and assessing penalties against employees for failing to complete basic job expectations. The purpose of the bonus program and penalties was to discourage absenteeism and tardiness by employees, and to promote motivation and dependability. Under the terms of the bonus program, if an employee was late for one minute or missed one day of work, he would forfeit the opportunity to earn a bonus. In June 1979, Rust gave Dove and other construction workers the opportunities to earn a bonus of $6,000 each if they completed a certain construction project within 12 weeks. The bonus agreement was later modified to offer Dove $5,000 if he completed the project in 10 weeks, to accommodate Dove’s school schedule. Dove was aware that this arrangement required him to work 12 hours per day, five days per week. Dove was also aware that if he missed any work or was tardy one day, he would forfeit the opportunity for the bonus. Dove completed his duties under the arrangement for nine weeks. During the tenth week, Dove came down with strep throat and a high fever. Dove told Rust he could not work. Rust offered him the opportunity to stay there and lie on a couch, or make up missed days on the weekend. Dove declined and missed two days of work during the tenth week of the bonus program. Rust refused Dove the bonus because Dove missed two days of work. Dove brought suit against Rose Acre in Indiana state court, arguing that he substantially performed the bonus agreement and thus should be awarded the full bonus. The trial court entered judgment for Rose Acre, and Dove appealed.

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