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South Carolina Appellate Court Holds Prisoners Entitled to Overtime

Prisoners participating in the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ (SDOC) Prison Industries Program (PIP) are entitled to receive time-and-a‑half pay for overtime work performed, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina held on April 5, 2010.

While incarcerated at Ridgeland Correctional Institution, Billy Joe Cartrette sometimes worked in excess of ninety hours per two-week period making furniture for Kwalu Furniture, a PIP participant. Cartrette was paid $5.50 per hour but was not given time-and-a-half for overtime.

He filed a grievance arguing that $5.50 an hour was not the prevailing wage for the kind of work he was performing. Under PIP rules, prisoners are required to be paid the prevailing wage for similar work performed in the community. Cartrette argued that non-prisoners were earning $11.00 to $14.00 for similar work. He also argued that he was entitled to time-and-a-half for overtime, and that funds were improperly withheld from his paychecks for room and board and victim’s compensation.

A circuit judge remanded Cartrette’s complaint about not receiving the proper prevailing wage to an Administrative Law Court (ALC) for further determination. However, Cartrette’s request for overtime pay was denied and he appealed.

Examining the intent of South Carolina’s legislature in enacting the relevant PIP statutes, the Court of Appeals determined that “the prevailing wage statutes entitle inmate workers in a PIP to pay and working conditions comparable to those enjoyed by workers in private industry, including time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours worked.” The reason for this statutory requirement was to “prevent unfair competition.”

“Cartrette contends he is entitled to time-and-a-half pay for overtime worked,” the court stated. “We agree.” The court noted that “although the [Fair Labor Standards Act] does not apply to inmate workers, sections 24-3-315 and 24-3-430(D) compel the Department to ensure inmate workers who are employed under those sections receive the same pay rates and employment conditions as their non-inmate peers.”

The judgment of the lower court denying Cartrette overtime pay was accordingly reversed. The Court of Appeals issued a superseding opinion upon rehearing on May 28, 2010, but the outcome did not change. See: South Carolina Department of Corrections v. Cartrette, 387 S.C. 640, 694 S.E.2d 18 (S.C.App. 2010).

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Related legal case

South Carolina Department of Corrections v. Cartrette