Overtime Pay For Prison Workers?

Prison Workers Are Protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Prison workers – that is corrections officers, jailers, and other staff – may be entitled to overtime.  If a prison facility is run privately or by a public entity other than the state or a subdivision thereof (e.g. a municipal jail), then the workers are protected by the FLSA and entitled to overtime for all of their hours worked over 40 in a work week. [1]

The most common violations at prisons and jails are for off-the-clock work.   Frequently, employers pay their prison workers only for their shift time, but not their actual hours worked.  For example, if a prison worker is scheduled to work a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, but the employer requires the worker to report at 6:30 a.m. for security checks, briefings, etc. and only pays the employee for the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, such a pay practice would be unlawful and, of the course of the work week, result in an overtime violation.  The same would hold true on the back-end of the shift.  If an employee who is scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but then is required to perform additional duties after 3 p.m., such as inmate counts, report writing, etc., then the employee is entitled to be paid for the additional time worked after 3 p.m. [2]

Related to this, prison workers often are required to report to work for briefings from the prior shift regarding the inmate population.  If these briefings are conducted off-the-clock, then that is a wage and hour violation as well.

Similarly, if prison workers are required to work through their meal breaks, then they should be paid for that time.  If prison workers are required to monitor certain devices during their meal breaks, then the court will look at such a scenario on a case-by-case basis.

Prison workers who are required to supervise inmate work details, whether conducted indoors or outside are entitled to be paid for this time.  Of course, any work a prison worker may be required to perform at home – such as report writing – is compensable.  Similarly, prison workers are entitled to wages for any employer-mandated training.

Importantly, the federal rights of prison workers to overtime wages may not be waived by a collective bargaining agreement or other union contract.  If you have questions regarding the whether your overtime rights have been violated please contact Shavitz Law Group for a free consultation at 800-616-4000 or email us [email protected].

[1] .  In most states, workers employed by the state itself – including its subdivisions – are immune from liability under the federal wage and hour law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).   Federal prison workers are covered by the FLSA; however, their claims involve a different procedure than other employees, governed by the Office of Personnel Management (”OPM”).
[2]   In lieu of overtime compensation, a public prison facility may award employees “comp time.”  A privately run facility does not have the “comp time” option.

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