The Missouri Department of Corrections still owes a group of former and some current employees more than $100 million, the Missouri Western Court of Appeals affirmed Tuesday.
In November, the Missouri Attorney General's Office, on behalf of the DOC, appealed the ruling by Cole County Judge Pat Joyce in a lawsuit over work performed by corrections officers before and after their shifts.
The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed Joyce's order the DOC must pay the workers additional compensation and implement a new timekeeping system.
Attorney Gary Burger, of the Burger Law Firm in St. Louis, who represented the officers, said he was happy for the officers but noted the state could still file discretionary appeals of this ruling.
"We look forward to when the state and DOC take responsibility for making guards guard without paying them," Burger said. "It's good to see the Court of Appeals affirm what the trial court ruled. It also affirms what these officers have been saying for years has been taking place."
Missouri Attorney General's Office spokesman Chris Nuelle said the AG's office was going through the ruling to determine their next options in the case.
The lawsuit filed Aug. 14, 2012, accused the department of requiring corrections officers to work before and after assigned shifts without being paid for the mandated work, which included going through security, signing in, getting their keys and getting to their duty assignment locations for the day.
The DOC denied it should pay employees for time spent on pre-or post-shift activities, arguing the time spent on such activities is minimal and the pre- or post-shift activities are not compensable under state law.
During a civil trial Aug. 10, 2018, Joyce ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the DOC had breached its agreements with the officers.
The jury heard evidence and reached the verdict that the department owes $113,714,632 in damages. Interest in the amount of $5 million has been added to that amount, bringing the total payout to more than $118 million.
The suit covered 11 years, affecting 13,000 officers. There are 4,500 officers currently working who would be affected, and the rest are retired.
In October 2018, Joyce denied a motion for a new trial, also approving a stipulation requiring the DOC to implement a system to accurately track the amount of time officers work.