High Desert State Prison

In this April 15, 2015 file photo guard towers are seen at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher,File)

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A judge ruled Nevada could be forced to pay up to $100 million in damages and unpaid wages to correctional officers across the state. 

Now the question is, where would that money come from? 

Reno-based attorney Mark Thierman said insurance companies might have to pay up but there's a big chance it would have to come from taxpayer pockets. 

In a lawsuit filed against Nevada and the Nevada Department of Corrections, more than 540 correctional officers said they didn't get paid for work they did before and after the official start of their shift. 

"You don't know who's going to go where, what your staffing needs are, you don't know what equipment you need, so you find out what your post is," said Thierman. 

Thierman is representing all the correctional officers named in the lawsuit. He said it takes his clients 20-45 minutes to get equipment, instructions from the guard towers and briefed on the shift ahead. Plus, post-work duties. The lawsuit claims, the officers were never paid for this time. 

"That's a lot of time to not be paid," said Thierman.  

Thierman filed the lawsuit almost six years ago. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt argued sovereign immunity. 

Last week a judge in San Francisco said Nevada gave up that right when the case moved to federal court, and the state is liable for damages and unpaid wages. 

Thierman said last weeks ruling was a big step for his clients but the legal battle is far from over. 

"Nobody's reached out and said, 'can we find common ground?' Nobody's said, 'hey can we work this out, are there other mechanisms for payments that won't cost the taxpayers immediately such a big amount of money?' They're not telling us the insurance company is on the hook but they're not telling us the insurance company isn't either," said Thierman. 

Thierman explained this is a two part class action lawsuit. All together, he said there are 3,000 correctional officers who said they didn't get paid. 

If the case keeps moving forward in their favor, Nevada will have to come up with $100 million. 

Thierman said he's frustrated by the lack of communication between the insurance companies and the Attorney General's Office. 

A spokesperson for Attorney General Aaron Ford said, “Our office is still reviewing this matter and consulting with our client to determine next steps.”

Governor Steve Sisolak said he could not comment on pending litigation. 

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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