Employment Law Daily State court jury awards Missouri prison officers $113.7M for unpaid wages
Wednesday, August 22, 2018

State court jury awards Missouri prison officers $113.7M for unpaid wages

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

On August 15, a state court jury in Missouri came in with an award of $113,714,632 for 11 years of unpaid wages, including overtime, that the Missouri Department of Corrections had failed to pay 13,000 Corrections Officers. The verdict was announced by the law firms that represented the officers, The Burger Law Firm and Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP. The award was a little higher than what lead trial attorney Gary Burger requested from the jury, according to his law firm.

Liability previously determined. On August 10, the court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, finding that “the pre- and post-shift activities worked by Class Plaintiffs are compensable work under the contract requiring compensation for the time class members ‘physically work,’ and compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, which ‘requires [M]DOC to compensate corrections officers who actually work more than forty hours in a single work week at ‘a rate not less than one and one-half hours for each hour of employment for which compensation for overtime is required.’… As such, the only issue that remains for trial is a computation of Class Plaintiffs’ damages.”

Jury award. The frontline Corrections Officers and Sergeants testified at the trial that the Department of Corrections required them to perform pre- and post-shift work but refused to pay them for it. The Jefferson City jury in Hootselle v. Missouri Department of Corrections awarded all the compensation requested by the plaintiff class for the 11-year class period to pay for the wages earned in pre- and post-shift activity by the 13,000 class members. Jurors agreed that the Department of Corrections had unlawfully refused to pay those employees for hundreds of thousands of hours worked by them since 2007.

The win came after six years of hard-fought litigation, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. “We hope the Department of Corrections takes this opportunity to pay this verdict, do what’s right, and change the system that affected thousands of hard-working officers that didn’t get fully paid,” The Burger Law Firm said.

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