Trial date set for CCA overtime lawsuit

 Company has been sued concerning overtime pay before

By Brett Barrouquere
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A dispute over whether a group of supervisors at a private prison in central Kentucky should have been paid overtime by a private prison company will go to trial in federal court in 2014.

The case centers on allegations brought by at least 25 people who worked at the Marion Adjustment Center in St. Mary’s. The group claims Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA forced them to work extra hours, denied them meal and rest breaks and refused to pay overtime. They are collectively seeking at least $435,000 in back pay.

CCA has denied the allegations, saying the supervisors were managers and exempt from overtime rules.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II set aside 10 days for the trial, which is scheduled to begin June 18 in Louisville after settlement talks failed at the end of October.

Attorney Tom Miller of Lexington said the lawsuit may also affect employees who worked at two other CCA prisons in Kentucky — the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville and Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright. Miller said any damages could cover employees dating back to 2007.

CCA spokesman Mike Machak declined to discuss the specific allegations in the suit.

“Overall, we are committed to ensuring that our employees are fairly compensated, and we strive to provide lasting career opportunities for those professionals who chose to work with our company,” Machak said.

The shift supervisors and assistant supervisors claim they did uncompensated work before and after regular shift hours, including traveling between minimum- and medium-security units at the 825-inmate prison in central Kentucky, staying on post while waiting for a replacement officer to arrive and attending training sessions on regular days off.

CCA classifies the shift supervisors and assistant supervisors as “exempt” from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The act has rules covering which employees qualify for overtime, based in part on salary, how many people the supervisor oversees and the duties included in the supervisor’s job description and whether management duties are part of the job.

The lawsuit is similar to a suit filed in federal court in Kansas that sought to certify a class of assistant shift supervisors at CCA’s 65 facilities in 19 states. In that case, assistant shift supervisors alleged that CCA misclassified them as exempt from overtime pay. The two sides settled that case.

CCA and a group of collections officers, case managers and clerks also settled a suit concerning overtime in 2009, also in federal court in Kansas. In that case, CCA agreed to pay a maximum of $7 million, but did not acknowledge fault in the case.

CCA and Vermont have a contract to keep inmates from that state at Lee Adjustment Center. Kentucky removed its last inmate from Beattyville in 2010. Kentucky has removed its inmates from Marion Adjustment Center, which closed earlier this year, and Otter Creek, which shut down in 2012, and no longer has any contracts with CCA.