A Missouri jury has awarded nearly $114 million in compensation to 13,000 correctional officers who alleged in a class action lawsuit that they had been paid incorrectly for years. The award will go to current and former correctional officers who worked for the State of Missouri since 2007, according to a report in Insurance Journal. That amounts to an average settlement of $8,769 in back wages per employee.
Corrections Officers Win Massive Verdict From Missouri Department Of Connections
In court filings reviewed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the guards argued that they weren’t being paid for “entrance and exit procedures they must perform every day, even though they are in uniform and expected to respond at any time,” Insurance Journal writes.
In particular, the dispute came down to a lengthy screening process required before and after the guards clocked in each day. Every guard was required to undergo a thorough security check before and after clocking in. But for years, the Department of Corrections, in contrast to its prison guards, argued that the security screening process shouldn’t be considered part of a guard’s work hours.
Missouri DOC Investigated By Department Of Labor
That argument has never gone over well with federal authorities. In fact, the Department of Labor twice investigated the Missouri Department of Corrections over this precise issue, ruling in 2013 that a prison in Bowling Green had stiffed prison guards out of over $500,000 in compensation. The State, however, refused to pay the back wages. It never changed its payroll practices, either, citing the correctional officers’ pending suit as a justification for the delay.
Now, the dispute seems to have been settled, with a Cole County jury ruling that the Department of Corrections had violated federal and state labor laws by failing to count the pre- and post-clocking in security screenings as work. The verdict ends nearly 6 years of litigation. First filed on August 14, 2012, the class action came to a close on August 10, 2018.
Missouri Attorney General’s Office May Appeal Verdict
While many prison guards in Missouri are surely cheering the verdict, the Missouri Attorney General’s office, which defended the Department of Corrections in the case, says it “disagrees with the verdict and is assessing the next step.” If an appeal is forthcoming, the case could stretch on for several more years.