As I'm kicking back on the couch and watching some Justice League cartoons with my son on this lovely Sunday afternoon, I'm reminded of the fact that right now the Offices of the Harris County District Attorney over at the Criminal Justice Center are probably full of prosecutors working on cases -- Prosecutors who are missing time with their families, and missing some NFL Playoff games to try to get a jump start on the coming week.
The weekend is about the only time that a prosecutor can come even close to catching up on the massive caseload that they have.
On a typical weekday (even assuming a prosecutor isn't in trial), getting some work done for a prosecutor is difficult, to say the least. The first half of the morning is stuck in court docket, and it is not unusual for docket to run well past 1:30 in many courts. If a prosecutor does take a lunch, they come back with two and a half to three hour left in the regular work day. This time is usually spent returning the phone calls received during the morning while the prosecutor was in docket call, or trying to get a task done between constant phone calls.
The reality is that for a prosecutor to truly get some meaningful work done on his or her cases, it usually has to be outside the typical 8 to 5 weekday window. The docket and the constant barrage of phone calls prevent a prosecutor from sitting down and actually reading a long file without interruption. Prosecutors (especially those who are Twos and Threes within the Office) spend large portions of their weekends up at the Office just to keep their heads above water managing their caseloads.
The reason I bring this up is to point out that prosecutors don't get paid overtime for their work. They earn Compensation Time (AKA Comp Time). If a prosecutor works a couple of hours on the weekend, at some point they can take two hours off during the normal 8 to 5. It all comes out in the wash, right? Nothing wrong about that, is there?
In theory, that system should work out just fine.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of kinks in the system.
The first and foremost of these "kinks" is the fact that the amount of Comp Time that can be earned by a prosecutor is 240 hours.
So what happens once a prosecutor has accumulated over 240 hours (which can happen quite rapidly for the Twos and Threes)?
They start working for free at that point.
No time and a half. No supervisor telling them to take some time off before they go insane. A blind eye is usually turned to the fact that these folks aren't being compensated at all for the time that they are spending up at the Office.
I've often wondered how that was legal under the Employment Code, but that's not my area of practice. If somebody who knows more about employment law would care to enlighten us, please do so.
The other thing that I find interesting about the Comp Time system is that when a prosecutor leaves the Office through resignation or termination (or even Super Double Termination), they only get paid for half of their Comp Time. That loosely translates into getting paid 50 cents on the dollar for the time they earned working for the County. I really don't get how that is legal.
Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of great perks working for the county. There is no overhead and the insurance is great. I understand and I don't dispute that.
But I guarantee you that pretty much every prosecutor that has ever worked at the D.A.'s Office has put in plenty of hours working for free without so much as a pat on the back for doing so. I'm just not real sure how that can legally happen.
What do y'all think?