Mo. awards $4 million in back pay

Saturday, September 13, 2008 | 4:01 p.m. CDT; updated 2:22 a.m. CDT, Sunday, September 14, 2008

COLUMBIA - Missouri has agreed to provide more than $4 million in back pay to probation and parole workers after a judge found they were wrongly excluded from a pay raise.

The agreement announced Friday puts to rest a four-year fight by the Service Employees International Union Local 2000, which represents roughly 1,400 employees.

A union lawsuit contended that legislators unlawfully denied probation and parole workers a $1,200 raise granted to other state workers in 2004. A trial judge and an appeals court both agreed.

In an April follow-up ruling, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said the probation and parole workers were entitled to more than $4.1 million in back pay covering 2004 to 2007 and that the state also should pay more than $300,000 in taxes on that. But Callahan stopped short of ordering the back pay.

Lawmakers responded by inserting wording in the Department of Corrections budget this year that allows for money that isn't used for other expenses to go toward the back pay. But lawmakers did not budget a specific amount of money for the overdue wages.

The union gave credit to Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder for helping secure the payment agreement, which was dated Thursday and signed by several union officials and state Office of Administration Commissioner Larry Schepker.

"I'm extremely thrilled, because it's a long time coming," said John Cross, the union political director who participated in the negotiations.

Cross said the amount each employee will receive ranges from around $3,000 to $5,000. He said the checks, which are to go out Oct. 15, will include 9 percent interest earned on the back pay from the date of the April 9 court ruling through Oct. 15.

Schepker said Friday that he could not discuss the agreement in any detail until next week.

The union argued in its lawsuit that state lawmakers denied probation and parole workers the standard raise received by others in retaliation for the unionized workers negotiating an average $1,215 raise several months earlier. The union said the extra money it negotiated was to compensate probation and parole officers for expanded duties and responsibilities.

But Republican lawmakers argued in 2004 that it would have been unfair to other state workers to give probation and parole workers anything more than the average $1,215 raise they already had negotiated.



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