Maryland pays $13 million in back wages ‘stolen’ from corrections workers

Jul 07, 2023

Thousands of Maryland corrections workers will receive a total of $13 million in back pay amid an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor investigation into wage theft by the state government, in one of the country’s largest wage-theft settlements for prison workers.

Corrections employees were denied pay for recorded overtime — paid instead only for scheduled shifts — at prisons across the state from 2018 through 2021, according a settlement involving nearly 3,900 workers approved this week by the Board of Public Works.
“The department was stealing wages — engaging in wage theft and stealing wages — from its own employees,” Patrick Moran, president of the union that represents corrections workers, said in an interview. He added that the settlement “represents the state coming forward and acknowledging” it.
Gov. Wes Moore (D) vowed to review hourly wages paid across state government to uncover whether other workers were systemically denied earned pay.
He also apologized to the corrections workers and their union, AFSCME Maryland Council 3. The union started raising concerns under Moore’s predecessor, Larry Hogan (R), and initiated a federal complaint when their complaints met resistance.
Moore said his administration, which began in January, would continue to cooperate with the federal government and focus on “making this issue right” for state workers.
The payment is not the first in the ongoing complaint from AFSCME; the state repaid more than $450,000 in 2021 to workers at Jessup Correctional Institution, where concerns first arose.
Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D), a former civil rights lawyer who said she represented plaintiffs accusing employers of wage theft, called it “shocking” that a state would engage in such a practice.
“I also want to apologize on behalf of the state that this happened and let our workers know how unacceptable this practice was,” she said. “This was a blatant violation of the long-established Fair Labor Standards Act. And trained professionals should have and did know better … being transparent about what happened with all state workers and with the public is essential.”
Moran said during public comments at the meeting Wednesday that the union wants further investigation into how the state would deal with employees who implemented the wage-theft policies.
“Who is being held accountable for stealing $13 million from the hard-working correctional staff? If one of our members were to knowingly alter their time sheet without authorization, they would be fired, no questions, no defense,” he said. “But to our knowledge, no one in management has been disciplined for this illegal wage theft.”
Union leaders say the deal is the nation’s second largest wage-theft settlement for corrections workers, after the 2013 deal to pay $35 million in back pay to corrections workers in Puerto Rico.
The federal investigation by the labor department’s Wage and Hour Division is ongoing.
You could read more of this Washington Post article here.