Law360 (March 21, 2023, 4:28 PM EDT) — The state of Nevada will pay a group of correctional officers $55 million to end litigation over uncompensated off-the-clock work after a federal judge lent her final stamp of approval to the deal, ending a long-running suit that began nearly a decade ago.

Under the terms of the settlement, a class of roughly 5,400 correctional workers will receive the equivalent of approximately 18 1/2 minutes of unpaid overtime wages and damages per shift worked before the payment of attorney fees. That payout, U.S. District Judge Miranda M. Du said Monday, was a sufficient return for workers who faced the prospect of litigation risks and delays.

“The settlement at this time will avoid additional substantial costs, as well as avoid the delay and risks that would be presented by the further prosecution of the action,” Judge Du said. “The court … recognizes the significant value to the class members.”

One-third of the total settlement pot, plus $170,000 in attorney fees, will go to the workers’ attorneys as a fee award. The seven named plaintiffs who led the action, meanwhile, will receive $20,000 each as service awards.

Monday’s final approval of the settlement closes out litigation that commenced in a state trial court in May 2014. In a complaint removed to federal court the following June, the officers alleged that Nevada’s Department of Corrections violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage laws by requiring them to attend pre- and post-shift briefings and undergo uniform and gear inspections without any compensation.

The state’s decision to remove the case to federal court ensured that it could not escape liability to FLSA claims. Although the state argued that it held 11th Amendment immunity to federal claims, the Ninth Circuit ruled in 2019 that states waive their constitutional immunity to federal claims when they remove disputes to federal court.

The Supreme Court declined to unwind and revisit that ruling in November 2020, despite the state’s argument in a petition for a writ of certiorari that the Ninth Circuit “eschewed principles of state sovereignty” in ruling that the state had to face FLSA claims.

The parties presented the court with their deal in November 2022. Although the workers said they had proven that much of their off-the-clock work was compensable, they told the court in November that ongoing disputes about the applicability of liquidated damages incentivized settlement.

“There were significant remaining risks for both parties with respect to the amount of recoverable damages,” the workers said in their November motion for preliminary settlement approval.

Josh Buck, counsel for the workers, called the finalized deal an “outstanding result” in a Tuesday statement.

“It represents a culmination of more than eight years of hard fought litigation wherein plaintiffs-employees prevailed on liability for pre- and post-shift compensation,” Buck said. “All class members will be finally receiving compensation for the pre- and post-shift work going forward and will be significantly compensated for their unpaid overtime dating back to … 2011.”

Representatives for Nevada did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The workers are represented by Mark Thierman, Joshua Buck, Leah Jones and Joshua Hendrickson of Thierman Buck LLP and Christian Gabroy and Kaine Messer of Gabroy Messer Law Offices.

Nevada is represented by James Tucker, Sheri Thorne, David Khan and Cara Laursen of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP and Steven Shevorski, Kiel Ireland and Leslie Nino Piro of the Office of the Nevada Attorney General.

The case is Walden et al. v. State of Nevada et al., case number 3:14-cv-00320, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

–Editing by Emma Brauer.

Subscribe To Our Quarterly Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Quarterly Newsletter

Join our mailing list to learn more about the latest happenings at our firm and educate yourself on legal topics related to employment and personal injury law.

You have Successfully Subscribed!