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PLN wins motion to unseal settlement in CCA wage/hour class action suit

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2009.
Press release - PLN wins motion to unseal settlement in CCA wage/hour class action suit 2009

PRESS RELEASE

Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

August 28, 2009

COURT ORDERS SETTLEMENT UNSEALED IN CLASS ACTION WAGE/HOUR SUIT AGAINST CORRECTIONS CORP. OF AMERICA


TOPEKA, KS – Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas unsealed a settlement agreement in a national class-action lawsuit against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison firm. On July 27, 2009, Prison Legal News (PLN), a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, had filed a motion to intervene in the suit for the purpose of unsealing the settlement.

The suit, brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), alleged that for years CCA had required some of its employees to perform work duties "without compensating them for all such hours worked as required by the FLSA."

The parties reached a settlement that was approved by the court on February 12, 2009; however, the settlement was sealed and did not become publicly known until June. PLN argued that as a matter of public policy, documents filed in federal court should remain open to the public. This is particularly true for CCA, since almost all of CCA’s income is derived from taxpayer funds through government contracts.

The court agreed that the settlement and related documents should be unsealed. U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum wrote that the confidentiality of the settlement was insufficient "to outweigh the strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial records," and that "no evidence whatsoever" had been presented to show that unsealing the settlement agreement "would cause significant damage or prejudice to the parties. ..."

The unsealed documents reveal that the maximum gross settlement amount payable by CCA is $7 million, which includes up to $2.33 million in fees for the plaintiffs’ attorneys who brought the FLSA suit. The actual amount of the settlement and attorney fees will depend on the total number of class members who opt-in to the settlement.

CCA was responsible for providing a list of the potential class members, consisting of current and former CCA employees, so they could be notified of the settlement. The potential class numbers over 30,600 nationwide. PLN is aware of at least one former CCA employee who did not receive notice of the settlement but who was later determined to be eligible by the claims administrator. The deadline for submitting claims was July 27, 2009.

The settlement provides that current CCA employees who opt-in to the settlement must agree, among other requirements, that they will "report any alleged instruction or suggestion by CCA or any CCA employee to work ‘off the clock’ or to otherwise under- or over-report the amount of working time."

CCA expressly denied any liability or wrongdoing, and wrote that the company had agreed to settle the case to avoid "the costs and disruption of ongoing litigation."

The class action suit against CCA is Barnwell, et al. v. Corrections Corp. of America, U.S.D.C. (D. Kan.), Case No. 2:08-CV-02151-JWL-DJW. PLN was ably represented in its motion to intervene by Stephen D. Bonney, Chief Counsel and Legal Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. Other than its motion to intervene, PLN has no part in this lawsuit.


Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.


For more information about the Barnwell suit:

www.barnwellsettlement.com


For further information, please contact:

Alex Friedmann, Assoc. Editor
Prison Legal News
5331 Mt. View Rd. #130
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 495-6568
afriedmann@prisonlegalnews.org

Doug Bonney, Chief Counsel
ACLU of Kansas & Western Missouri
3601 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64111
Tel. (816) 756-3113, Ext. 228
Fax (816) 756-0136
dbonney@aclukswmo.org


 


 

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