Prisons are often riddled with problems. It is a tough place to work. Most people would not even consider working for the prison system for a career. But many of those that do work hard for every penny they earn. Some Kentucky prison employees feel they are not being adequately compensated for their work.
The Marion Adjustment Center is a private prison in Kentucky. It is run by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Six current and previous employees have filed an employment lawsuit claiming they were not paid for extra hours they had to work. Oftentimes they were required to stay past the end of their shifts to wait for their replacements or to travel between prisons, both on their personal time. They were also expected to attend training sessions on their days off.
Why would an employer think asking employees to work more than the hours they were paid for would be okay? The employees in question are, or were, shift supervisors. According to the company, employees that hold this position are exempt. “Exempt” means they are not entitled to overtime. Businesses can claim that certain employees are exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA provides a list of categories of employees who could be exempt from receiving overtime pay as well as specific types of employees. Those who could be exempt range from babysitters to farm workers to executives. According to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) website regarding the FLSA:
“Exemptions are narrowly construed against the employer asserting them. Consequently, employers and employees should always closely check the exact terms and conditions of an exemption in light of the employee’s actual duties before assuming that the exemption might apply to the employee. The ultimate burden of supporting the actual application of an exemption rests on the employer.”
According to the lawsuit filed by the Kentucky employees, the prison misclassified them as exempt; they should actually be non-exempt, which means they should have been paid for overtime. The lawsuit also states that they have been denied meal and rest breaks that they are entitled to by law. The employees are requesting damages and an injunction from the court that will require the company to pay overtime to those who are not currently receiving it. Attorneys handling the case say that employees who worked at the prison as long as five years ago may be entitled to compensation for unpaid overtime.
If you feel you have been denied wages that you have earned, you can visit the Department of Labor’s website for information on how to file a claim under the FLSA, or you can speak to someone at the DOL at 1-866-4USWAGE. Because various state laws regarding fair wages may also apply, you may want to contact a Kentucky employment attorney such as Charles Miller or Rheanne Falkner to discuss your situation. In this economy, many people feel fortunate just to have a job at all. But that does not give employers the right to treat employees unfairly or deny them the pay that they have earned.
Suit: Prison overtime denied; The Courier-Journal; Brett Barrouquere; May 15, 2012