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Justices take state employee back-pay case

June 6, 2011

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear the case in which past and present state workers were initially granted more than $42 million in damages in their suit to recover back pay. That amount was later reduced by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

On June 3, the justices accepted Richmond State Hospital, et al. v. Paula Brattain, et al., No. 49S02-1106-CV-327, in which Marion Superior Judge John Hanley found in favor of four subclasses of plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit to recover back pay for unequal wages earned between 1973 and 1993. As many as 15,000 past and present state employees were a part of the suit, in which the employees who worked 40 hours a week sued to get back pay because they were paid the same amount as those who only worked 37 and 1/2 hours a week. The judge awarded the plaintiffs $42.4 million in 2009.

The Court of Appeals significantly reduced that award in October 2010, holding that certain employees shouldn’t be able to recover for the time between 1973 and 1993, but are limited to the 10 days before the class-action suit was filed in July 1993 to when the state courts abolished the split class system weeks later in September. The appellate ruling cut the damages for the merit-based employees from nearly $24 million to an estimated couple million dollars. The $18.6 million awarded to non-merit employees was affirmed by the COA.

The intermediate appellate court affirmed its holding in December 2010 on rehearing and clarified the two-month period from which state employees could recover back pay.

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