Study: Maryland prison officers shortchanged millions in OT

February 8, 2022 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) — The state of Maryland shortchanged correctional officers and other staff at the Jessup Correctional Institution by nearly a half-million dollars in wages over a two-year period, according to a U.S. Department of Labor investigation.

The report said the state paid staff members only through the end of their scheduled shifts instead of when workers actually clocked out. That effectively rounded off overtime for employees who were regularly required to stay late to deal with issues in the institution or wait for other staffers to relieve them, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The investigation covered the period between November 2018 and November 2020.

The labor department mailed notices last month to correctional officers to tell them they had been underpaid by the state in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Joanna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Labor Department’s Philadelphia regional office, said the investigation determined that Maryland owes past and present Jessup Correctional Institution correctional officers $468,238.87.

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Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Division of Corrections, said the issue was discovered as part of an internal review that “included an audit by the U.S. Department of Labor.” Vernarelli said management improperly required employees to get a supervisor’s signature on an overtime form when they were held over after the ends of their shifts to cover for late shift changes.

Union officials said the timekeeping issues stretch back before November 2018, but federal labor law has a two-year limit for recovering unpaid wages. They also said the timekeeping issues routinely occurred at other Maryland prisons as well.

Vernarelli initially said last week that the wage issues were “limited to just one facility,” but said Monday that the agency was now aware of additional complaints at other locations and “continues to review timekeeping practices throughout its correctional facilities.”

Jessup Correctional is a maximum-security facility that is making a transition to medium security, according to a state government guide. It can hold 1,800 inmates.