Missouri Department of Corrections Class Action

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June 1, 2021: Hootselle v. Missouri Department of Corrections Reversed

The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the trial court’s judgment - and remanded it back to the state court for a new trial. This was a unanimous decision of all six Judges handed down June 1, 2021. The case was transferred from the Supreme court back to the trial court. We appeared before our new judge and set the trial of the case June 7, 2022 in Cole County Circuit Court.

Although we obviously do not agree with the reversal of the money verdict, we and our clients remain unbowed and ready to win the case again in our second trial. The Supreme Court Judges put a lot of work and thought into their decision.

And there are a lot of pretty significant victories affirmed by the Supreme Court in the remand. These are not silver linings – but rather first of their kind wins in Missouri. The Supreme Court affirmed that: this is an appropriate class action as certified, there is no sovereign immunity from this claim, the contract, in this case, is established and enforceable, it was breached by MDOC, and significant damages resulted therefrom.

In the opinion, the Court also found that:

  • The time the class spends “on duty” is compensable as a matter of law under counts III and VI: “once they are in the presence of inmates and “on duty and expected to respond” to emergent incidents, they are performing the work they are employed to do.
  • “Corrections officers are required to perform essentially the same duties during pre-shift and post-shift time as they are required to perform when on shift.” MDOC has admitted in filings that Officers are on duty the entire time they are performing their pre- and post-shift activities, so all of that time remains compensable. See SOF 71, 72, and 80
  • Time spent “Picking up and returning equipment” is compensable as a matter of law.
  • Time spent after the first compensable activity until the last is compensable under the continuous workday rule, re-affirmed by the Supreme Court.
  • Regarding the other activities, the court “is not finding on the merits that those activities that were not shown to be compensable affirmatively are not compensable”
  • “If the remaining activities are indispensable and integral to the corrections officers’ work or if they occur after the first and before the last principal activity, they are compensable.”

The Court said it is not bound by Aguilar “and doing so would likely result in the very issue the Portal-to-Portal Act was passed to address – unexpected liabilities due to an overly broad definition of compensable work.” So this was the out it found for the state.

We will go forward to trial to again prove our damages. We hope to get a large recovery for the really large loss the corrections officers have and continue to suffer.

Gary argued the case to the Missouri Supreme Court on April 22, 2020

The court has taken the case and will render a decision. To listen to the argument, click here.

To read an article about the argument, click here.

April 3, 2020 Update: We filed our Response brief with the Missouri Supreme Court.

View document

January 9, 2020 Update: We filed opposition to the state's request for transfer to the Supreme Court.

The Missouri Supreme Court asked Respondents (the Class) to respond to the Request for Transfer the MDOC file with the Supreme Court. We filed our Opposition with a 6-page limit.

View document

December 10, 2019 Update: The state has submitted an application for transfer to the Supreme Court.

The Department of Corrections has submitted an application for a post-opinion transfer to the Supreme Court.

View document

October 18, 2019 Update: The state is doubling down on their bad decision.

The Department of Corrections continues to attempt to deny a court order to change their clock-in system, which would require the payment of officers the moment they begin their work.

View full article

October 8, 2019 Update: Missouri Department of Corrections Appeal was Denied!

The Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri denied the appeal by the Missouri Department of Corrections. The court of appeals affirmed the entire trial court judgment and denied all 6 points on appeal asserted by the DOC.

View appeal denial

Are You An Underpaid Corrections Officer?

Below, you will find more information about the case, significant pleadings, answers to questions class members might have and a form to make sure we have your updated information. This is the official web page for this class action. We have kept class members abreast of developments and will continue to do so. For other areas of injury practice or our other successes, visit our home page.

The front line Corrections Officers and Sergeants testified at the trial that the Department of Corrections required them to perform pre- and post-shift work but refused to pay them for it. The jury awarded all compensation requested by the Plaintiff class for the 11 year class time period to pay for the wages earned in pre- and post-shift activity by these 13,000 class members.

Appeal Argued and Submitted to Court

Gary Burger argued the appeal to the Western District Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Sept 10, 2019. The judges asked impressive questions of both the department of corrections and class counsel. The judges were well prepared and addressed the key issues in the case directly. A decision in a case like this takes months to prepare and we will update with any additional information. Here is a recording of the oral argument.

Correctional Officers Deserve To Be Compensated

The verdict came after years of litigation spearheaded by Gary Burger of Burger Law. The firm is proud to have been able to represent these hard-working and honorable men and women.

Corrections officers fought the Missouri Department of Correction’s dishonorable system. Mr. Burger requested that the jury hold the Department of Corrections responsible for not fully paying their employees, adding, “When the Department of Corrections breached its agreement with its officers, it is responsible for all the harm it caused,” in the verdict.

We hope the Department of Corrections takes this opportunity to pay this verdict, do what's right, and change the system that affected thousands of hard-working officers that didn't get fully paid.

The verdict is big news for our attorneys who continually strive to provide justice and compensation for their clients. For more information about this case or legal representation, Gary Burger can be reached at (314) 542-2222 or gary@burgerlaw.com. We've provided a list of the pleadings at the bottom of this page.

You can look up the case results from The Circuit Court of Cole County on case.net by searching for case number 12AC-CC00518.

View Respondent's Brief

$113 Million Judgment Made to Missouri Corrections Workers Denied Pay by the MO Department of Corrections

On August 15, 2018, a Cole County jury rendered a verdict for a class of Missouri Corrections officers against the Missouri Department of Corrections in the amount of $113,714,632.00. This was slightly over what lead trial attorney Gary Burger of Burger Law requested from the jury. Many thanks to the Cole County court personnel and the jury for their hard work and time devoted to the case.

Class Member? Update Your Info Here

Information about the Case

The Circuit Court of Cole County certified a class action of employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections who worked as a Corrections Officer I or Corrections Officer II from August 14, 2007, to present. You are considered a member of this class if you meet this criteria. If you haven't been contacted by our firm, please click here to update your information.

We proved that the Missouri DOC broke its agreement with the class by not paying straight-time or overtime wages for pre- and post-shift activities which the DOC required employees to perform.

Hawley's pursuit of appeal in prison lawsuit could cost Missouri taxpayers $27,000 a day

As part of the August verdict, Cole County jurors agreed to tack a charge of 9 percent interest on the payout, meaning that for each day the thousands of officers are not compensated, taxpayers are billed an additional $27,000. Over the course of a year, that could amount to nearly $10 million in added costs.
Kurt Erickson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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No new trial in Department of Corrections lawsuit

During a civil trial Aug. 10, Joyce ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the DOC had breached its agreements with the officers.
Jeff Haldiman, News Tribune

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Taxpayer tab rising as Missouri Department of Corrections defies court judgment

The Department of Corrections is defying a court order to pay Corrections’ Officers the minute they walk in the door.
Chris Hayes, Fox2Now

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Missouri faces a $118 million bill for prison guards' back pay as House finishes budget work

The Missouri House Budget Committee on Monday was still processing news that the state would need to pay $118 million in back pay to employees of the Department of Corrections..
Kurt Erickson St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Rude Awakenings: Uncovering the garnishment of state bank accounts

But the story that the state of Missouri has its bank accounts garnished to the tune of $118.5 million is too hot to dawdle. The initial reaction I heard Friday from State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick is defiance..
Rudi Keller Columbia Tribune

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No response from Missouri leaders on $118M garnishment against its bank accounts

Usually you’ll hear about a garnishment against someone like a deadbeat parent who refuses to pay up. In this case, involving Missouri employee back pay, attorney Gary Burger says it’s the government that’s defying the law...
Chris Hayes, Fox2Now

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Frequently Asked Questions

Given the many inquiries our firm is getting about the case, see below:

  • There is only a verdict and judgment — no money has been paid yet.
  • We do not know when any payment will come, and if there is an appeal, it may take a couple of years.
  • We feel the verdict is well supported by Missouri law and the evidence, but the DOC can appeal this verdict.
  • We do not need you to contact Burger Law. We have a list of all of the class members and sent a notice. You can update your information here.
  • We do not know payment amounts to class members yet, which will be overseen by the court. If we get a recovery, we would recommend payment amounts that scale to the amount of time the employee's tenure.
  • The workers compensation attorneys at Burger Law represent personal injury victims and their families throughout Missouri and Illinois. Feel free to reach out to Burger Law and our attorneys to learn more about our services.

You can view the plaintiff's petition and other documents by clicking on the tabs below.

Missouri DOC Class Action

The court has certified this class, approved the plaintiffs identified above as class plaintiffs, and approved Gary Burger as class counsel. The court approved the class notice that was sent long ago. This is an opt out class action, meaning you don't have to do anything to be a part of it as long as you meet the criteria, i.e. be a COI or COII for the Missouri DOC from August 2007 to date.

Review the below links for copies of documents related to the Missouri Department of Corrections Class Action Case. You can reach Gary or a member of his office at (314) 542-2222, or email Burger Law if you have any further questions. You can click here and look up the case status on case.net. Search for case number 12AC-CC00518.

Missouri Correction Officers Class Action Documents

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David and Fran Schneider

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