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In Lawsuit, Part-Time Faculty Say Long Beach Community College District Isn't Paying Them For All Of Their Hours

A sign near the entry to a multo-story parking garage reads: Long Beach City College, Liberal Arts Campus
Part-time faculty make up the bulk of the district's teaching staff, according to the suit.
(Megan Garvey
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Two part-time faculty members are suing the Long Beach Community College District for what they say are violations of state minimum wage rules.

The class-action lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, says part-time faculty are compensated only for classroom time and office hours, even though the district knows they spend additional time on activities related to teaching, like prepping for lectures and grading student work.

"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 says. "As a result, part-time hourly instructional faculty members earn so little that it is virtually impossible for them to earn a living through their community college teaching."

The plaintiffs, Karen Roberts and Seija Rohkea, are seeking back pay, plus interest. They also want retirement contributions on those wages, damages on behalf of about 600 affected part-time faculty identified by their attorneys and a court order obligating the district “to compensate part-time hourly instructional faculty members at no less than the minimum wage for each hour worked, including for the outside-the-classroom time that is required to teach their classes effectively.”

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The community college district told us it does not comment on pending litigation.

Roberts has taught art history for more than 20 years at colleges in Orange and L.A. counties. The bulk of those years have been at Long Beach City College.

“I teach three-unit classes, which means I'm required to deliver just over three hours of instructional time in the classroom or online per week,” she said at a press conference. “I'm paid a flat hourly rate for that time only. What I am not paid for is the prep each course requires, including creating and writing a syllabus, creating lecture materials, including PowerPoint slides, study guides, additional weekly assignment materials, quizzes, tests and papers."

Roberts said each of her classes typically has about 40 students. "I'm not paid to meet with students between classes to give them additional help," she said. "I'm also not paid to give feedback on and grade all assignments, papers and tests submitted by my students.”

At the press conference, members of the California Teachers Association — the state’s largest teachers union — came out in support of the lawsuit and a bill introduced by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago to “help ensure pay parity” between part- and full-time community college instructors.

Eileen Goldsmith, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit could force changes in pay practices for community college districts statewide.

“If we were to prevail,” she said, “community college districts would have to start compensating their part-time faculty based on all of their time worked. That means they would have to start tracking those hours and paying for them.”

It would be “a sea change in how part-time faculty members are paid,” Goldsmith added. Her team is also investigating potential violations in other community college districts in California and may pursue other cases.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of two successful labor efforts on behalf of non-tenured faculty in California. In November, the union representing non-tenured professors and some other faculty in the UC system reached a tentative contract agreement with the administration after threatening to strike.

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Earlier this year, the California Faculty Association, which represents 29,000 California State University lecturers, non-tenured professors, counselors, librarians and coaches, announced that its members voted to accept the terms of a new contract, after nearly two years of negotiations.

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