Somerset County Jail has paid 142 corrections officers $133,273 in back pay after violating federal labor laws concerning overtime wages over a three-year period.

The county and jail administrators came to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor in July after a federal administrative judge ruled that the jail violated the federal Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act. The violations occurred from 2017 to 2019, when administrators paid corrections officers less overtime than they were entitled to under the law.

The Labor Department said the judge’s ruling and subsequent agreement set a precedent for how the federal act applies to employees who work for both state and federal governments – and made clear to federal contractors that they need to understand the law moving forward.

“Federal contractors are responsible for knowing, understanding and complying with their legal responsibilities under federal contracts and laws, including the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act,” said Steve McKinney with the New Hampshire Wage and Hour District. “Violations are preventable.”

The violations began in 2017, when Somerset County Jail failed to pay time-and-a-half wages to 142 correctional officers who were working more than 40 hours a week while handling federal inmates under a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. The case was complicated by the fact that federal and state inmates are detained and housed together, so there were no clear boundaries between the amount of overtime hours spent working with state versus federal inmates. Somerset County Jail said it does not track the hours corrections officers spend working under the U.S. Marshal’s contract.

To decide whether Somerset County Jail violated the federal law, Administrative Law Judge Jonathan Calianos had to determine whether it applied to the corrections officers’ overall union contract, as well as to the specific overtime work the officers did in this case.


The U.S. Department of Labor asserted that the federal law applied to the corrections officers because state and federal inmates were intermingled and there was no clear distinction between hours spent working under the federal contract and those working for the state.

The federal law’s overtime rate is triggered when the value of a federal contract exceeds $150,000. Somerset County Jail has received over $150,000 a year in federal contracts since at least 2010, when the federal government paid the jail $194,000. That figure gradually increased to a peak of $1 million in 2016 and ended at $555,000 in 2018, the department concluded.

Somerset County disagreed, saying that the law does not apply to state employees working under a federal contract; until the contract was complete, it couldn’t guarantee the amount of federal contract money it would receive would be high enough to trigger overtime rates under the federal law; and that correctional officers are not the “laborers or mechanics” that the law specifically states it covers.

In a January 2023 ruling, Calianos ruled in the Labor Department’s favor and disagreed with the county’s three assertions.

Calianos concluded:

• Workers doing federally contracted work are not exempt from the protections of the federal law merely because they are directly employed by the state.


• Somerset County Jail could have anticipated it would receive over $150,000 a year under the federal contract based on the value of previous contracts.

• The federal statute has a clear, expansive definition for laborers or mechanics, in part including “watchmen,” “guards” and employees whose work is “physical in nature.”

The U.S. Department of Labor and Somerset County have since determined the amount of back pay owed is $133,273. Calianos approved the agreement in August.

The judge’s partial ruling and the agreement do not clarify how many hours of overtime the 142 corrections officers worked, nor how the money would be distributed among the different officers. The Maine Department of Labor said in an email that is does not have jurisdiction in this case and has not been involved in it.

The Somerset County Jail, Somerset County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Department of Labor did not respond to requests for an interview by the time of publication.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.