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.