ILNews

Settlement reached in equal pay suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A day before a multi-million dollar class action suit was supposed to go to trial, attorneys reached a settlement in the state employees' equal pay case that is expected to give every plaintiff what they asked for.

The class - made up of as many as 15,000 former state employees - wanted compensation for hours they worked between 1973 and 1993 and didn't receive equal pay of fellow workers, who had only worked 37 1/2 hours compared to their 40 hours a week. A state appellate ruling in 1993 corrected the pay disparity and directed all full-time employee salaries be based on the lower work-hour total, but the state didn't offer compensation for those who'd worked longer hours before the court ruling.

As a result, this suit - Paula Brattain, et al. v. Richmond State Hospital, et. al. No. 49D11-0108-CP-1309 - came in February 2002. It was set for trial Tuesday.

But after "marathon settlement discussions" on Sunday, attorneys reached a compromise and the court approved a preliminary settlement today, according to Indianapolis plaintiffs' attorney John Kautzman.

The settlement states that all claimants adversely affected would receive 100 percent of their back pay, Kautzman said. A 60-90 day claim period will now begin, where any state worker who believes he or she might have been affected can file a claim to receive damages. Since the pay disparity happened so long ago, the estimated number of potential claimants is nearly impossible to assess, he said - the number could range from five to 15,000 people.

A part of the settlement includes a way for the state to rescind its offer, if the total amount paid comes out to be more than $8.5 million, Kautzman said. In that case, the state could ask that the case proceed to trial.

"Both sides think that it won't be that high, but this is a way to proceed in the case if it's larger than any of us anticipated," he said. "The state could still pony up and pay it, and be done. Or they could ask to go to trial."

Kautzman describes this as a victory on several fronts, since the workers can get complete compensation and, even if the state rescinds the offer, plaintiffs could still have their day in court. He expects it will likely be late October or November before all the claims are submitted and it can be determined who will be paid.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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