Dozens of workers at state government hospitals will be paid a total of nearly $600,000 after Maryland acknowledged that it had circumvented overtime pay laws.

A union for state workers discovered the pay discrepancy in 2022, alleging that hospital employees were not paid overtime for working extra hours. Instead, the Maryland Department of Health had them pick up extra shifts and hours as independent contractors, paying them a lower rate than if they has been compensated as state employees.

“They were being asked to sign contracts at various MDH facilities to do additional work beyond their permanent state positions, and then being paid at lower rates,” Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Maryland, said Wednesday at a meeting of the Board of Public Works.

AFSCME brought the situation — which Moran termed as “wage theft” — to the attention of state officials in 2022, when Republican Larry Hogan was governor.

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“Larry Hogan’s MDH leadership tried to repeatedly deny that this wage theft was happening, but AFSCME pressed ahead and worked with the staff of the Department of Budget and Management to get to the bottom of this,” Moran said.

All told, more than 40 state workers lost out on nearly $600,000 in pay, Moran said. They worked at state-run facilities such as psychiatric hospitals for children and adults and facilities for people with developmental disabilities.

The Board of Public Works, which approves major state contracts and settlements, signed off on paying nine of the workers a combined $221,884.35 in lost pay. The other workers were able to receive compensation without Board of Public Works approval.

“This was another wage theft scheme orchestrated under Larry Hogan’s watch that took advantage of hardworking state employees and deprived them of what they had earned,” Moran said. “And again, you had accomplices who have yet to be held accountable and are still working for MDH.”

Moran’s comment referenced a combined $22.5 million paid to thousands of state correctional officers who were systematically shorted on their paychecks because the timekeeping system rounded officers’ hours to the scheduled time of their shift, not the actual time they started or stopped working. That shaved time off of their pay records, resulting in lost pay.

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Hogan left office in January of 2023 and is now running for the U.S. Senate.

Asked to comment on the settlement, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci did not directly address the pay issue for state workers. Instead, he claimed in a statement that Moran and AFSCME are aligned with the Democratic Party and uninterested in public health.

Ricci claimed the union refused to help promote the coronavirus vaccine to state employees. AFSCME officials responded that they did promote the vaccine, agreed to incentive payments for vaccinated workers and asked the state for mobile vaccination clinics at worksites, which were not provided.

Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat who chairs the Board of Public Works, said he was proud “to make these employees whole.”

This article has been updated with a comment from Larry Hogan’s campaign.