Mo. COs must wait for another trial to receive court-ordered back pay

The 2018 verdict awarded 13,000 COs $113.7 million for uncompensated work

By Sarah Sinning

ST. LOUIS — Missouri corrections officers waiting on court-ordered back pay from a 2018 verdict will have to wait longer, says the state's Supreme Court. 

In a decision reached Tuesday, Fox 2 Now reports, the high court agreed with a lower court's ruling that officers had been shorted pay for work performed both before reaching assigned posts and after leaving those posts at the end of the work day, but disagreed with the $113.7 million awarded

The 13,000 COs represented in the suit argue that during the roughly 30 minutes each day spent in activities like going through security checkpoints and communicating with subsequent shifts, they are considered “on duty and expected to respond" and thus should be compensated accordingly. 

While Cole County jurors agreed, the Supreme Court wasn't as convinced.

“The Circuit Court’s determination that all pre-shift and post-shift activities are compensable was erroneous,” writes Judge Patricia Breckenridge in the 32-page decision. “Merely walking to and from their posts, alone, has not been shown to be compensable.”

The court did concede, however, that while "the need to respond to any incident may not arise on a daily basis, ... the work of supervising offenders is, in and of itself, part of the corrections officers’ work."

The case now returns to the lower court for another trial to determine the proper dollar amount. 

“This has been a long fight," said attorney Gary Burger, who brought the suit on behalf of the Missouri Corrections Officers Association back in 2012. "We really look forward to continuing this fight for the hard working and underpaid men and women corrections officers.”

MIssouri regulators have maintained that COs are not owed any additional compensation.

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