Correctional Officer Forced to Work California Overtime
Alan says they were paid overtime according to the California labor laws and they had a choice: work overtime or lose your job and walk away from retirement benefits. He says there are many unhappy employees in the nation’s prisons.
Alan, who retired in 2008, worked in state prisons anywhere from level 1-4, where the more dangerous inmates are placed in level 4 with minimum security being level 1. “In the last decade or so, the prison population increased to such an extent that building new facilities couldn’t keep up,” he says. “As a consequence, there weren’t enough officers to cover the new housing units.” According to “the general rule of thumb,” at least two officers must be allocated per 100 inmates, but Alan says most units contained hundreds of inmates with only two officers.
“Judging from the amount of complaints going around I believe that hundreds of officers didn’t want to work so much overtime,” he says. “One former co-worker retired last year after working 26 years. He had seniority but said it was unfair to those starting out, especially officers with families.”
With seniority you can choose to work overtime or not. Seniority also means that officers with the least seniority can wind up working 16-hour days, five days a week. “Sure the money is great but those hours are brutal and it’s dangerous,” Alan explains. “It’s not fair to your co-workers because you cannot be alert when you are exhausted. We even had a few officers who fell asleep at the wheel because of fatigue: It is a serious problem.
“We were forced to work a minimum of three overtime shifts per week (we would work our regular 8-hour shift and then we were held over: They needed us to work another eight hours. So 16-hour days, sometimes 3 or 4 days per week were common and often we were required to work 16 hours five days a week. We were paid time and a half over eight hours and double time was paid weekends and holidays.”
Before talking to LawyersandSettlements, Alan wasn’t aware that he is owed a lot of overtime pay: if he adds up all those 16-hour days, Alan is owed a big chunk of change because he should have been paid double time after 12 hours. The California overtime law states the following:
• One and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of eight hours up to and including 12 hours in any workday, and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek;
• Double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 hours in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
Alan has another complaint regarding overtime. His salary averaged about $110,000 due to working so much overtime but he had to take an early retirement five years ago at the age of 55 due to a work-related injury. “They calculated my salary on my hourly rate working eight hours per day and didn’t include overtime pay,” he says. “What is most unfair is that if you refused to work overtime, that was grounds for dismissal. They wanted it both ways.”
Alan has filed an overtime complaint against the California Correctional Institute.