A ruling is expected soon on how the Corrections Department will pay current and former Corrections officers who were awarded more than $113 million in unpaid compensation by a Cole County jury, as well as a plan on how the department can better track hours of existing staff.
Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce heard arguments Thursday afternoon by Attorney Gary Burger, of the Burger Law Firm in St. Louis, who represented the officers, and Assistant Attorney General Joshua Bortnick representing the state and the Department of Corrections.
A lawsuit filed Aug. 14, 2012, accused the department of requiring Corrections officers throughout the state to work before and after assigned shifts without being paid for the mandated work.
During a civil trial Aug. 10, Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the DOC had breached its agreements with the Corrections officers.
The jury heard evidence and reached a verdict the department owes $113,714,632 in damages. Burger said they were not seeking any additional money.
The suit covered 11 years of time, affecting 13,000 officers. There are 4,500 officers currently working who would be affected and the rest are retired. Burger said the more the person worked, the more they potentially could get. Under the system they are proposing, the highest amount paid out would be around $34,000, but there are many who would get less than $600. He said the average would be around $5,000.
Part of the plan Burger wants Joyce to rule on is a stipulation making the DOC implement a system to accurately track the amount of time its officers work. He suggested that should happen within 30 days of the judge’s decision.
Bortnick argued that would be too much of a burden on the state since there are 21 different facilities affected by the decision. He also said on Sept. 30, the current labor agreement between Corrections workers and the state would expire; he said putting a new system would be unnecessary.
Burger said his understanding was the last formal collective bargaining agreement between Corrections officers and the state came in 2014. Since then, he said, they have been using the same agreement on a year-to-year basis.
“We want something in place so that we don’t have to come back here and go through this all over again,” he said.
Later this month, both sides are scheduled to appear before Joyce on the state’s motion for a new trial.