Some 13,000 corrections officers involved in a class-action lawsuit that alleged they were required to do work before and after their shifts but weren't paid for the work are awaiting settlements after a jury in Coles County Circuit Court awarded $113 million in the case, and taxpayers are on the hook for even more as the jurors added 9 percent interest on the payout.
"The suit was filed in 2012 and is just now beginning to get over with; the suit accused the department of working employees a certain amount of time each day and not compensating them for it," Gary Gross, executive director of the Missouri Corrections Officers Association, told the St. Louis Record. "We are the official bargaining unit for corrections officers in the state of Missouri."
The association went to trial and the jury awarded the damages in favor of the corrections officers.
"Currently, there have been two or three appeals that the state has made, but that has not been successful and now, I understand, they have appealed it to the Western District Courts in Missouri (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri) to try to overturn the court's decision," Gross said. "It's just standard practice in the legal system for these types of things. To date, we've won all the appeals and we're really not expecting any change in that in the Western District."
Gross said the entire incident was covered up for a long time before coming to light in 2012.
"The department started to discipline officers for things that they had not done in the past that brought it to a head; if they were not on their specific post by a certain time, then they were being disciplined for not being there, when in reality they really weren't required to be there because they weren't being compensated for it," Gross said. "Things eventually came to a head and then the lawsuit followed."