As reported by JSOnline.com on August 7, 2013, Corrections officers in Wisconsin sued the State this week alleging they are owed millions of dollars in back pay because of a 2012 policy that prevents them from being compensated for perhaps five minutes of work a day.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Dane County Circuit Court, comes less than a month after a state agency found that the policy led the department to underpay a Redgranite Correctional Institution officer.
Building off the initial victory, officers at 10 other institutions filed their lawsuit. They are seeking class action certification in the hope of securing back pay for more than 3,000 current and former officers.
In early 2012, the department set a policy that said officers would not get paid until they were stationed at their assigned posts. They are not compensated for duties they perform before then, which include going through security screenings, receiving fitness for duty checks and checking out equipment.
The department’s conduct "constitutes continuing, willful violations of Wisconsin’s law requiring the payment of overtime and wages for all hours worked," the officers wrote in their lawsuit.
If the suit succeeds, the state would have to pay the officers millions of dollars. Much of the lost time would have to be paid at time-and-a-half because the officers worked 40 or more hours in those weeks. Additionally, the state could have to pay the officers’ attorneys fees and damages equivalent to half the amount of the unpaid wages.
The lawsuit noted that the wage dispute cannot be resolved using collective bargaining because of a law restricting union negotiations. Under that law, known as Act 10, the correctional officers union can bargain for raises — up to the rate of inflation — but nothing else.
This suit appears to follow the story that we reported in Florida a few weeks ago regarding an award for "portal to portal" work that was unpaid but later awarded in a arbitration decision.