Two Long Beach City College (LBCC) educators have filed a class-action lawsuit charging LBCC with violating minimum wage laws with the way it pays part-time faculty, in a case that is likely to shine a light on the lack of pay parity for part-time instructors at California’s community colleges.
Some community colleges unlawfully treat part-time adjunct instructors as exempt from minimum wage laws. Part-time faculty do not earn enough money to be exempt from California’s minimum wage requirements. These colleges pay part-time instructors an hourly rate only for each hour teaching in the classroom, in front of students, despite requiring these instructors to work many hours performing teaching-related work outside of the classroom.
“I’m not paid for the prep that each course requires,” said Karen Roberts, a longtime part-time art history instructor at LBCC and Community College Association (CCA) member who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit along with Seija Rohkea, also a CCA member. “Asking us to work for free is wrong, unethical and shows a lack of care for employees.”
Discussed at a press conference today, the lawsuit has the potential to benefit more than 650 current part-time faculty at LBCC as well as former faculty. The practice of paying part-time faculty only for hours spent in the classroom is widespread throughout many of California’s community colleges, despite these colleges expecting and evaluating the job performance of these instructors based on outside-the-classroom requirements for which they are not compensated, including grading, planning lectures and meeting with students.
“For too long, Long Beach City College and other community colleges throughout the state have unfairly and unlawfully exploited part-time faculty,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd said. “We thank Karen and Seija for stepping forward and shining a light on the unfair and illegal practices at Long Beach City College and at other community colleges.”
The plaintiffs are seeking backpay for the last three years of unpaid work time plus interest, retirement system contributions for the unpaid wages, a court order that LBCC pay part-time faculty for all hours worked, and any additional penalties prescribed by law. There have been many unsuccessful attempts to get LBCC to address this issue in the past through collective bargaining efforts. The union representing the plaintiffs, Certificated Hourly Instructors, (CHI) has tried to address and remedy the issue through negotiations, but the college has refused to change its illegal compensation structure.
“California’s Community College system is the largest higher education system in the world. More than half of classes in the system are taught by part-time instructors being paid far less on an hourly basis than their full-time counter parts,” said CCA President Eric Kaljumägi. “The current system forces many part-time instructors to work multiple jobs just to eke out a living. The exploitation is unfair, and, when compensation drops below the minimum wage, it is illegal.”
CTA is co-sponsoring legislation to support pay parity for part-time community college faculty. AB 1752 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago will ensure part-time faculty are being compensated for work they are required to do in and out of the classroom. AB 1752 is awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Higher Education Committee. Contact your legislator today to ask them to support AB 1752 and end the exploitation.