For over a year and a half, two community college chemistry professors persistently raised health and safety concerns to the Mt. San Jacinto Community College District regarding potentially dangerous staffing and equipment issues related to hazardous chemicals stored in their chemistry labs and classrooms. When the district trivialized their concerns and failed to take recommended action to remedy the potentially dangerous conditions, the professors filed Cal/OSHA complaints and refused to attend a meeting with their dean until the district took steps to address the dangerous conditions. A short time after the filing of the complaints and refusal to meet, the district unilaterally removed the chemistry professors from their elected (and compensated) department chair positions and replaced them with a hand-picked faculty member, in violation of the college’s academic senate processes. The district also unilaterally assigned the two chemistry professors to introductory chemistry courses usually taught by adjunct professors, deviating from normal course assignment practices.
The Mt. San Jacinto College Faculty Association (MSJCFA) filed an unfair practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), asserting that the district’s actions were retaliatory. After a three-day hearing, the PERB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that the district violated EERA by retaliating against the professors for raising health and safety issues. The ALJ ordered the district to restore the professors to their previous course assignments and department chair positions with backpay and interest and to comply with academic senate chair election procedures.
Since then, the district has filed an appeal with PERB, which we think is an unnecessary expenditure of time and funds, but we are confident that MSJCFA will prevail.
“We are proud of our members for staying strong even in times of adversity. While the fight continues, we are hopeful that PERB will see right through the district’s misconceptions. When we fight, we win.”
–Lorraine Slattery, MSJCFA Vice President