February 2021 Advocate: Resolving faculty issues

Grievance Work

AFT works to resolve faculty issues and improve working conditions

By Marianne Kaletzky, AFT 1493 Executive Secretary

District grants back pay to part-timer refused assignment for moving out of state

In December 2020, AFT reached a settlement on the case of a part-time faculty member teaching entirely online, who lost their assignment because she no longer had a California address. The faculty member had taught all their classes online before the pandemic and moved to another state to get help from their family with childcare; they told their dean about their plans in advance, and the dean initially approved. However, the faculty member then heard that, due to a directive from District HR, they were not eligible for future assignments because they were not a California resident. The part-timer had reappointment preference, which the District effectively claimed they had forfeited by moving out of state.

AFT filed a Request for Information regarding the District’s supposed policy of requiring California residency. We found that there was no written policy, nor had the requirement of California residency—which the District was using as a condition of employment—ever been bargained over. We contemplated filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board, which governs collective bargaining, since it is illegal to introduce a new condition of employment that has never been negotiated between an employer and the union. Fortunately, the District made this unnecessary: they responded to our demand letter by “disclaiming” the unwritten policy (saying they no longer had any interest in enforcing California residency as a requirement for employment) and confirming that the faculty member would be eligible for future assignments.

Unfortunately, the District’s disclaiming of the residency requirement came too late for the faculty member to receive a Fall assignment. After several months of negotiating and advocacy by AFT, the District agreed to a settlement in which SMCCD paid the faculty member the full salary they would have received for teaching in the Fall.

The question of whether California residency is a requirement for continuing employment likely affects a number of faculty at the moment. With remote instruction continuing at many K-12 schools, faculty may be considering moving closer to family and friends for help with childcare. Or they may need to move closer to elderly relatives to support them through the pandemic. If you encounter any issues with working for the District while living out of state, please contact AFT through your campus grievance chair. Grievance chairs are listed at the bottom of this article.

College restores assignment of part-timer who lost class due to QOTL logistics

AFT was also happy to assist in the informal resolution of another matter involving a part-time faculty member with reappointment preference. This part-timer had been on sick leave in Fall 2020 and, due to illness, was unable to complete QOTL training offered at the beginning of Fall semester. By December, they had recovered from their illness and wrote to their dean asking when they could expect to receive a Spring contract for their usual assignment. The dean replied that they could not give the part-timer an assignment as the faculty member had not yet completed QOTL; according to the dean, AFT and the District had stipulated in the Summer/Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 MOUs that QOTL training was required before any faculty member began a teaching assignment.

In fact, the MOU only stipulates that faculty must be paid for 25 hours for completing QOTL. It does not state that QOTL is required of all faculty before beginning assignments. AFT reached out to the dean to clarify and worked with the faculty member and the DE coordinator to make arrangements for the faculty member to begin QOTL early in Spring semester. The dean agreed that the instructor could begin teaching while concurrently taking QOTL and restored the instructor’s assignment for spring.

Workplace issue? Contact your campus grievance chair!

Do you think that something about your assignment, working conditions, or compensation may violate the contract between AFT and the District? Maybe something has changed recently and you’re not sure if your new situation is in keeping with the contract. Maybe you have a sense something isn’t quite right. Or maybe you’re just unsure about the specific contractual article or policy that governs some part of your work.

In any of these cases, you should reach out to your campus grievance chair. Reaching out to the grievance chair does not mean you’re committing to file a grievance. In fact, grievance chairs aim to resolve issues informally if at all possible. They can work together with you and the appropriate administrators to find a solution.

Your campus grievance chairs are: