The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges the district violated California’s minimum wage laws and demands back pay for lost wages and pay for the work going forward. More than 600 part-time instructors could be affected if a judge allows the suit to proceed as a class action. The lawsuit states that adjuncts (part time instructors) are “compensated based on their classroom hours worked, even though the district knows that these faculty members necessarily spend substantial additional time working outside the classroom in connection with teaching their assigned classes…Although this outside-the-classroom work is essential to teaching their classes effectively, and the district knows and indeed expects part-time faculty members to perform this additional work, part-time hourly instructional faculty members are not paid for their out-of-classroom time.”
Lawyers and advocates say this suit addresses long-smoldering issues about the nature of part-time academic work at the state’s 72 local community college districts and could have statewide impact. EdSource.org reported that prior to the pandemic cutting into their ranks, adjuncts taught nearly half of the community college system’s classes. So much so that they made up at least 70% of all faculty at 35 districts, community college data indicates. The plaintiffs’ lawyer said the suit could be a “sea change” for part-timers.
Adjunct instructors at community colleges have the same qualifications as their full-time colleagues and need to be paid accordingly. They should not be expected to perform the same required work for free,” Long Beach City College adjunct Karen Roberts told EdSource.com. Roberts has taught in the district for more than 20 years. Adjunct Seijs Rohkea said the district pays adjuncts for only 38 minutes of office time per week, which isn’t enough to address student needs. Additional work is done “for free because we are dedicated to our students.”
EdSource said that, while they make up the backbone of the community college system, adjuncts often struggle financially and say they are essentially gig workers with little job security. Basically limited to teaching no more than three classes a semester in a given district, many work in multiple districts to cobble together something akin to a full-time job.
Assembly Bills Affect Part-Timers
As well, two assembly bills from the state’s Higher Education Committee could make a difference regarding how part-time faculty workers get paid. According to the Sacramento Bee, State Center Federation of Teachers union President Keith Ford said AB 1752 would force community colleges to compensate adjuncts at the same ratio as their full-time counterparts, who are paid higher hourly rates and for office hours and prep work. “This is something that we’ve been fighting for a long time...This is exciting,” he said.
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Both bills have garnered support from the Community College Association and the California Teachers Association. As well, like many other employees during the pandemic, adjuncts worked at home without being fully compensated. And just as many large employers may have neglected to update their policies and procedures and may not have properly reimbursed their employees for all of their business expenses, so too have community colleges.