Nev. could pay $100M in damages to COs working without pay

A six-year-old lawsuit alleges COs performed various tasks without pay, are still doing so despite litigation

Corrections1 Staff 

RENO, Nev. — Lawyers say Nevada could be required to pay out over $100 million in damages and unpaid wages as a result of a lawsuit alleging corrections officers statewide weren’t paid for work they did immediately before and after the official start of their shifts.  

The lawsuit, which was initially filed six years ago, alleges that corrections officers were asked to perform tasks such as debriefings, equipment pick-ups and uniform inspections, and did not get paid for that time. The Reno Gazette Journal reports the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the state is not shielded from liability in the lawsuit because it was moved from state court to the federal appeals court. 

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt had argued the state was immune from such claims, citing a constitutional provision barring people from suing a state in federal court if they don't live there. That argument was rebuffed by the judicial panel, which wrote that the state’s assertion of that immunity “would generate seriously unfair results.” 

Reno-based labor attorney Mark Thierman, who represents more than 540 officers now participating in the suit, told the Gazette Journal he estimates as many as 1,000 corrections officers may be eligible for damages and unpaid overtime accrued over the past six years. The $100 million the suit claims corrections officers are owed is about five times the total amount Nevada lawmakers recently budgeted to pay for damages out of its tort claims fund, the Gazette Journal reported. 

Attorney General’s office spokeswoman Monica Moazez declined to comment to the Gazette Journal on if her office will appeal Wednesday’s ruling. 

“Our office is still reviewing this matter and consulting with our client to determine next steps,” she wrote in an email to the Gazette Journal. 

In 2018, Theirman said he would be willing to settle the case for $15 million. He told the Gazette Journal he doesn’t know if that offer is still valid, in part because he says the state is still making corrections officers perform duties off the clock. 

“While I won’t rule out anything, that offer is three years old, damages have increased and my ligation risk has gone down,” Thierman wrote in an email to the Gazette Journal. “I don’t know what it will settle for, but I’d rather not negotiate in the media. If the state were honest with its employees, if it owes the overtime payments to one, it owes it to all and ought to pay it to all.” 

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