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Union, corrections officers sue Michigan Department of Corrections for uncompensated pre-shift and post-shift work

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), SEIU Local 526M, and 35 current and former corrections officers have brought a collective action against the Michigan Department of Corrections alleging FLSA minimum wage and overtime violations with regard to pre-shift and post-shift activities over the past three years and continuing (Michigan Corrections Organization (MCO), SEIU Local 526M v State of Michigan Department of Corrections, filed in the E.D. Mich.  July 30, 2013). According to a union statement, 2,200 union members have joined in the suit.

Similar suits brought in Florida and Wisconsin were settled, the MCO said.

According to the complaint, filed on July 30, the Department of Corrections had a policy or practice not to compensate corrections officers with minimum wage or overtime pay for pre-shift work performed for the employer’s benefit, including:

  • punching a mechanical time clock;
  • waiting in line and clearing metal detectors and other security (pat down or shake down) inspections;
  • checking in with shift commanders, signing in on the log book, and receiving work station assignments, including assignments to “riot duty squads;”
  • undergoing uniform inspections;
  • picking up and testing the readiness of equipment including keys, radios, batteries, beepers, handcuffs, personal chemical agents, gas canisters or taser and holster;
  • walking to assigned locations; and
  • reading daily updates and taking report (briefing) from the previous shift, as well as comparable post-shift activities.

The alleged uncompensated post-shift activities include: providing report to the oncoming shift; signing out on the log book; turning in or handing over to the incoming officers equipment such as keys, radios, beepers, handcuffs, personal chemical agents, gas or taser and holster; and punching a mechanical time clock.

The complaint asserts that these pre-shift and post-shift activities “are an integral and indispensable part of the Plaintiff Corrections Officers’ principal activity because they assure an Officer’s readiness to perform his assigned duties during the work shift and they are essential to facilitating an orderly and secure transition of Corrections Officers between shifts.”

Even though these pre-shift activities are “an integral and indispensable part of Plaintiffs’ principal employment activity and that Plaintiffs are required to perform such activities under threat of disciplinary action,” they are not compensated for performing them, according to the complaint. Similarly, although these post-shift activities “are an integral and indispensable part of Plaintiffs’ principal employment activity and that Plaintiffs are required to perform such activities under threat of disciplinary action,” they are not compensated for performing them unless (a) they are required to work at least six minutes past the end of their work shift and (b) they file grievances challenging the Department of Correction’s failure to compensate them.

The plaintiffs are seeking unpaid minimum wage and overtime compensation for themselves and other similarly situated current and former corrections officers. They also seek liquidated damages or, alternatively, prejudgment interest; attorney fees; and costs.