The Maryland state government could be on the hook for paying millions of dollars to correctional officers who were shorted on their paychecks for years.
Gov. Wes Moore is asking lawmakers to put $15 million extra into the state budget for a potential settlement between the state and the U.S. Department of Labor, which has been investigating the problem for more than a year.
The $15 million for a potential settlement was among dozens of requests Moore made to lawmakers this week as they put their finishing touches on the $63 billion state budget before the General Assembly session adjourns on April 10.
The investigation started at the Jessup Correctional Institution and expanded to other state-run prisons and jails. Correctional officers allege that they were paid only for the time they were scheduled to work, not for the actual period they worked as they clocked in and clocked out.
That meant that correctional officers who were required to stay late, including to cover staffing shortages, weren’t always paid for all the hours they worked.
The U.S. Department of Labor previously determined that Jessup Correctional Institution officers were shortchanged by $468,238.87 over a two-year period between 2018 and 2020, The Baltimore Sun reported last year.
“I think they tried to sweep it under the rug,” Patrick Moran, president of an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that represents correctional officers, told the newspaper at the time. “They finally got busted with their hands in the cookie jar and now they’re going to have to pay.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s regional office declined to comment on the status of the investigation because it’s still active.
The Moore administration also would not provide details on the investigation, other than to say the $15 million “is the estimated amount to settle the investigation.”
The alleged wage theft took place under the tenure of former Gov. Larry Hogan, who also anticipated that the state might be required to pay back the correctional officers.
Hogan, a Republican, put $30 million in his final budget to pay for a combination of salary overruns and a potential settlement of the correctional officer pay investigation. When there was no settlement last year, the money was kicked back into the state’s general fund, the Moore administration confirmed.