Missouri Supreme Court sends $113.7M judgment for corrections officers back to lower courts

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS – After nearly a decade of fighting by Missouri corrections officers, they’ve learned the state’s high court agrees they were shorted pay but not by the near $114 million awarded by a lower court.

FOX 2 was there for the groundbreaking jury verdict in 2018. St. Louis lawyer Gary Burger fought the case on behalf of the Missouri Corrections Officers Association.

Cole County jurors agreed offices were shorted millions for their work before and after reaching their command posts, resulting in a $113.7 million verdict.

The alleged pay shortage involves the time before and officer reaches post and after they leave their post for the day. Officers say it adds up to about 30 minutes a day—two and a half hours each week—as they gather safety equipment, get through checkpoints and gather intelligence for their shift. Officers say they are actively supervising inmates during this time.

The Missouri Supreme Court agreed, in part, writing, “It is true the need to respond to any incident may not arise on a daily basis, but the work of supervising offenders is, in and of itself, part of the corrections officers’ work.”

However, the Supreme Court added, “The Circuit Court’s determination that all pre-shift and post-shift activities are compensable was erroneous.” At one point in the 32-page decision, the court wrote, “…merely walking to and from their posts, alone, has not been shown to be compensable.”

That means the case will have to return for another trial to get the dollar figure right.
The case on behalf of 14,000 corrections officers began in 2012 and may take a full decade before it’s fully resolved.

Missouri regulators have maintained they do not owe officers for pre and post shift work and have fought the claims even with threats of the judgment rising in interest.

Burger says he looks forward to continuing his fight and that he’s already getting ready for a new trial.

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