Union for parole, probation officers sues state over raises

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A labor union sued the state Tuesday, claiming certain state workers are being denied a $1,200 raise because of their union activity. The lawsuit asks a judge to order the pay raises to occur.

Lawmakers included funding for a $1,200 pay raise for most of the state's nearly 62,000 workers in the budget that takes effect July 1. Gov. Bob Holden is expected to sign it.

But the budget excludes probation and parole officers from that raise because they received a similarly sized pay increase in December.

The Service Employees International Union Local 2000, which represents probation and parole officers, is seeking a court injunction that would require a state pay plan with raises for probation and parole officers.

The union claims that excluding probation and parole officers from the raise violates the state constitution and state laws that allow employees to join unions without retaliation. The lawsuit claims the exclusion also violates a state law requiring uniform changes to the state pay plan.

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman John Russell, R-Lebanon, said it wouldn't have been fair to other state employees if probation and parole officers had gotten two roughly $1,200 raises in six months.

Earlier Tuesday, Holden signed legislation giving most state employees a choice between overtime pay or compensatory time off -- options that already exist in many private-sector jobs.

Holden and legislators have heard for years that some workers don't have the option of overtime pay and therefore must wait for a chance to take time off instead. People working in 24-hour institutions such as mental health facilities or prisons are especially affected, Holden said.

State workers who request cash payment for at least 20 hours of accrued overtime would have to be compensated within a few months. The overtime provisions take effect Aug. 28.

"It is appropriate to provide this timely compensation for our state workers," Holden said. "Previously, some state employees were regularly required to work overtime, but the compensation for the work could be years in coming."

The provisions cover about 70 percent of state employees, excluding salaried employees in executive and professional positions, Holden said.

The bill also allows employees who report problems on the job to seek civil damages if they believe they are punished as a result.

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