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October 4, 2008

Class action pending against state

<b>Current, former state employees could be entitled to part of settlement.</b>

Like many current and former state employees, Annie Wheeldon was pleasantly surprised when she received claim form in the mail a few weeks ago indicating she might be entitled to money through a class action settlement.

Wheeldon, who worked at the Logansport State Hospital from 1985 to 1996, knew nothing about the settlement before she received the information. She isn’t alone.

Many residents have only recently heard about Brattain v. Richmond State Hospital, a class action lawsuit against the State of Indiana to resolve claims of unpaid wages to those employed by the state from Sept. 19, 1973, to Sept. 19, 1993. However, thousands of residents across Indiana may be entitled to a portion of the $8.5 million settlement that has already been reached in the case.

The case stems from discrepancies in wages paid to employees of various state agencies during the 20-year period. In some cases, employees who were required to work 40 hours a week were compensated at the same rate as those at other institutions who were only required to work 37 and a half hours a week, according to the settlement notice. Because all were employed by the state, those employees — the plaintiffs in the case — are claiming they are entitled to compensation for 100 percent of the difference.

Locally, the Logansport State Hospital has been identified as one state agency that paid employees based on a 40-hour work week during that time frame. However, employees of other state-run agencies in the area could also be affected.

“There are various institutions and agencies that may or may not be affected based on how they were operating in that time frame, how people were assigned and what working conditions they had,” said John Kautzman, co-lead council of Ruckelshaus, Kautzman, Blackwell, Bemis and Hasbrook, which represents the plaintiffs in the case. “... Just because people worked at an institution during that time doesn’t mean you’re entitled to compensation.”

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