Staff sue Long Beach Community College over unpaid work hours

Lawsuit may affect part-time faculty in California

Staff sue Long Beach Community College over unpaid work hours

Long Beach Community College District is currently facing a class-action lawsuit after two adjunct professors alleged that the former illegally forced them to do unpaid work outside the classroom.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit stated the plaintiffs were forced to grade, prepare for classes, and meet with students. It also claimed that the district violated California’s minimum wage laws. “If a judge allows the suit to proceed as a class action, more than 600 part-time instructors in the district could be involved,” EdSource said in a report. Advocates have also stated that the lawsuit’s outcome may have “statewide repercussions.”

According to the lawsuit, adjuncts 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 [to teach] 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,” the lawsuit added.

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EdSource explained that the lawsuit “addresses long-smoldering issues about the state’s nature of part-time academic work.” Before the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slashed a considerable number of adjuncts, they taught almost 50% of the community college system’s classes.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Eileen Goldsmith, said the lawsuit “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,” one of the plaintiffs said at a recent press conference.

An investigation launched by EdSource revealed that adjuncts grossed an average of less than $20,000 across 41 districts based on salary data from 2020.

“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,” EdSource explained.

Meanwhile, California Part-Time Faculty Association’s president John Martin said that “it’s about time” after the lawsuit had gone public. “This was the most exciting day of my life as a part-time (faculty) activist. No longer can they ignore us and our issues,” he said.

As for the district officials involved in the lawsuit, they refused to provide any comment, arguing the pending nature of the litigation.

Meanwhile, a bill before California’s Assembly may offer support for part-time faculty. Assembly Bill 1752 was heard in Sacramento in early April, sponsored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago.

The said bill would “create pay parity between full and part-time faculty by paying part-timers the same hourly rates as ‘full-time faculty for comparable duties’,” Santiago said in a statement.

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