A Cole County judge has given preliminary approval to a settlement in a lawsuit over if compensation for Missouri Department of Corrections officers should begin before and after the assigned shift.
During a hearing Tuesday before Cole County Judge Cotton Walker, a motion regarding the settlement was made by lawyers representing the officers and unopposed by lawyers representing the state. Walker gave his preliminary approval.
The suit had been scheduled to go to a jury trial, with testimony beginning Tuesday.
Another hearing on the settlement is scheduled for Oct. 11 to determine if it is fair, reasonable and adequate and whether a final judgment should be entered.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 14, 2012, accused the Corrections Department of requiring Corrections officers to work before and after assigned shifts without being paid for mandated work, which included going through security, signing in, getting keys and going to their duty assignment locations for the day.
Then-Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce in August 2018 awarded $113.7 million to a class of Corrections officers damages and post-judgment interest for breach of contract, pertaining to payment for the time spent performing pre-shift and post-shift activities.
The Department of Corrections appealed the judgment.
In October 2019, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals affirmed the DOC still owed the group of former and current employees more than $100 million.
The state, represented by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, appealed that ruling, sending the case to the state Supreme Court.
In June 2021, the Supreme Court affirmed Joyce’s judgment to the extent it found the retrieval of keys and radios and the supervision of inmates while walking to and from the Corrections officers’ daily posts are compensable. However, they found Joyce erred in concluding all pre-shift and post-shift activities were compensable and sent the case back to Cole County to work out a settlement.
Each settlement class member’s share will vary in proportion to their wages, hours worked and time of employment during the period the settlement covers.