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Dr. Philip A. Sabetti sues ex-employer over unpaid wages and commissions

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jan 31 2013 08:25:15 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 31 2013 08:25:41 AM CST
EASTON, Pa. -

A long-time Lehigh Valley optometrist is suing the employer who hired him away from the practice he had owned for four decades.

Dr. Philip A. Sabetti, of 3649 Ranee St., Palmer Twp., Northampton Co., filed a civil suit Monday in Northampton County Court against Visionnaires, 3770 Dryland Way, Palmer Twp., and its owner, Dr. Steven Demko, of 2675 Greens Drive, Lower Saucon Twp., Northampton Co.

Sabetti is claiming that Demko owes him money for unpaid wages and commissions in 2012 and that Demko breached a 2011 oral agreement that persuaded Sabetti to go to work for Visionnaires and encourage his patients to follow him.

Sabetti's lawyer, Staci Sabetti-Caiazzo, told WFMZ.com on Wednesday that Demko owes her father about $2,000. She said her father won a judgment for that amount in November from District Justice Joseph Barner, but Demko told her he was going to appeal the verdict, so she was forced to file the civil suit.

WFMZ.com's attempts to get a comment on the case from Demko's attorney, Joseph Hanyon, were unsuccessful.

Sabetti had a practice in the Nazareth area for 42 years before going to work for Visionnaires in May 2011, the suit says.

Sabetti and Demko were at a seminar about a year-and-a-half ago when Demko suggested he come work for Visionnaires, the suit says, and a short time later Sabetti left the practice he had sold to his former associate, Dr. Scott Huggler.

Sabetti-Caiazzo said her father had sold his practice, Nazareth Eye Associates, to Huggler about five years ago, and when Huggler relocated the business from 163 South Green St. in Nazareth to 619 East Lawn Road in Upper Nazareth Township about three miles away, he considered retiring. Demko's offer made him reconsider, she said.

Sabetti's suit says Demko promised to pay him $125 per hour for work he would perform 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays from May to December, and that he would be given an assistant.

After taking the Visionnaires job, Sabetti appeared in Visionnaires ads encouraging his patients to follow him from Nazareth Eye Associates to his new job, according to the suit.

But a little more than a year later, Sabetti and his new employer were not seeing eye-to-eye, the suit says.

Around June 1, 2012, Sabetti says in his suit, Demko told him he would be paid a 25 percent commission, not an hourly rate, for his work conducting exams and other tests, and selling frames and eyeglass and contact lenses. Sabetti says he wasn't happy with the new arrangement, but agreed to give it a try.

But, the suit says, Sabetti was never given weekly patient ledgers listing sales, services and insurance claims so he could keep track of the fees owed to him.

Sabetti quit when he did not receive a paycheck on Aug. 2, the suit says.

Sabetti says in the suit that he is owed payment for 15.96 hours of work as well commissions, and that Demko breached their oral contract by offering Sabetti $125 an hour in "bad faith."

In his suit, Sabetti is asking for more than $50,000 and attorney's fees.