Ohio COs forced to work through lunch breaks win back pay

537 officers will receive between $9.56 for a single missed lunch up to $1,223 for 128 missed lunches


By Kaitlin Durbin
cleveland.com

CLEVELAND – The Cuyahoga County’s Sheriff’s Department is paying nearly $75,000 to corrections officers who were forced to work through their lunch last summer but were not compensated for the time, according to the terms of a recent settlement agreement.

The agreement identified 537 officers who are owed between $9.56 for a single missed lunch up to $1,223 for 128 missed lunches, records provided by the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association showed.

Cuyahoga County corrections officers monitor cellblocks from the control room at the jail during a June 2022 tour.
Cuyahoga County corrections officers monitor cellblocks from the control room at the jail during a June 2022 tour. (David Petkiewicz cleveland.com)

Officers still employed with the county are expected to receive their funds automatically in their Dec. 9 paycheck, Adam Chaloupka, an attorney with the union said. The roughly 71 officers who are no longer employed with the county must fill out a W-9 tax form by Jan. 31, 2023, to receive their check.

Former corrections officers who worked for the department during summer 2021, are encouraged to contact the union at 440-237-7900  or email Michele Angell at mangell@opba.com to see if they are on the settlement list.

A copy of the list and breakdown of money owed is available below.

“Going forward, if you are ever denied a lunch break on a shift, or simply do not take one for some reason, make sure that you put in for 15 minutes of overtime so that you are properly compensated,” the union advised in its Nov. 2, letter to members.

The OPBA filed a group grievance over the matter last summer, after learning the county was “habitually denying officers the ability to take a lunch break,” mostly on weekends when call-offs are more common, the letter says. A review of timecards between July 7, and Dec. 4, 2021, uncovered the violations.

Officers are contractually entitled to a 45-minute lunch break, 30 minutes of which is already paid, Chaloupka said. But when they worked through the break, they were not being compensated for the remaining 15 minutes, he said.

The county agreed to pay those officers back 15 minutes of overtime at the top rate, which came out to $9.56 per violation.

While Chaloupka agreed the settlement makes officers whole, he said the union will continue “to fight to make sure our officers get lunches,” so they can have a needed break and leave the jail, if they wish.

“The only way you do that is with staffing and better management of your staff,” he said.

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