Amid allegations that the Long Beach Community College District forced them to do unpaid work, two adjunct professors are now suing. The lawsuit, which was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims the adjunct professors performed work such as grading, class preparation, and meeting with their students, all outside of the classroom. The suit claims this was forced upon them illegally.
The professors, Long Beach City College adjuncts Seijs Rohkea and Karen Roberts, claim in their lawsuit that the district is in violation of California’s minimum wage laws. They are demanding that the district give them back pay for their lost wages and they are also looking for pay for their work moving forward. If a Superior Court judge allows the adjunct professor’s lawsuit to move forward as a class-action suit, over 600 part-time instructors within the district may be involved. The statewide repercussions could be huge.
According to the lawsuit, adjunct professors 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 in connection with teaching their assigned classes.” The suit continues, “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.” Because of the pending nature of the lawsuit, district officials have declined to comment.
The filing of this lawsuit, says advocates and lawyers, address long-standing issues seen by the part-time work adjunct professors perform throughout the state’s 72 local community college districts. Before the COVID pandemic drastically cut into the adjunct professors’ numbers, they taught almost half of the classes in the community college system. Adjunct professors made up at least 70% of all faculty in 35 community college districts and in only two of those did full-time professors have higher numbers.
Eileen Goldsmith, the San Francisco lawyer hired to represent the adjunct professors, says that the suit if moved forward, “could be a sea of change” for Rohkea and Roberts. The professors are also being supported by the California Teachers Association (CTA). The CTA is one of California’s most powerful teachers’ unions and represents over 300,000 members. “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,” said Roberts. She has taught in the Long Beach Community College District for over 20 years.
The adjunct professor then went on to detail how she gets paid by the district. “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 via LA IST. “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 also says her classrooms average around 40 students in size. As an adjunct professor, Roberts is also “not paid to meet with students between classes to give them additional help,” she claims. “I’m also not paid to give feedback on and grade all assignments, papers, and tests submitted by my students.”
Rohkea concurred, also saying that adjunct professors are paid for a mere 38 minutes of office time per week. Rohkea says it isn’t nearly enough time to help students, answer questions, or address any of their needs. They do the additional work “for free because we are dedicated to our students.” John Martin, president of the California Part-Time Faculty Association had nothing but praise for Roberts and Rohkea. “It’s about time,” he said. “This was the most exciting day of my life as a part-time (faculty) activist. No longer can they ignore us and our issues.”
Assembly Bill 1752, a piece of legislation that could greatly help part-time faculty to include adjunct professors, is scheduled to be heard in Sacramento today. Miquel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, is the Assemblymember sponsoring the bill, says its passage would finally create pay parity between full and part-time faculty members. The bill would give part-time faculty the same hourly rates as full-time employees.