An email from Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, reversed the district’s policy on staff teaching as adjuncts. May wrote in the email that the DCCCD does not expect the change to the Fair Labor Standards Act to be carried out.
By JAMES HARTLEY
Staff who have taken on extra service contracts for teaching will not have that opportunity come spring semester.
A change in the Fair Labor Standard Act regulations regarding overtime pay could leave more than 70 Eastfield staffers in a non-exempt status, meaning they will have to take overtime pay.
With the change, anyone working more than 40 hours a week and making less than $47,000 a year has to take overtime pay for the additional hours.
This has left the Dallas County Community College District to decide whether to pay overtime to staff teaching on extra service contracts or putting a temporary moratorium on those contracts.
A federal judge placed an injunction on the change until a lawsuit filed by 21 states, including Texas, can be heard.
The lawsuit claims that the federal government overreached in its decision to raise the non-exempt threshold and that such an action will hurt the economy and job market.
Larry Wilson, director of human resources for Eastfield, said he feels the safest move is to place a temporary moratorium on extra service contracts.
“The sense I was able to get from reading both a college and university HR blog and then just a general industry HR blog was that there’s some sense that the Department of Labor will appeal the injunction,” Wilson said. “That’s a political decision. It may or may not happen. If they do appeal it, there would be a period of time for both sides to put their arguments together and a new hearing to hear the appeal.”
He said that an appeal could have the injunction overturned as early as January.
Wilson added that DCCCD is looking into ways extra service contracts could resume as early as the summer 2017 semesters.
Susan Hall, director of Talent Central for the DCCCD, said the district would wait for a final say from the Department of Labor.
“Obviously, this is an issue that interests and impacts a significant number of the population on both the employee and employer sides, and just as we waited for the final release of the amended rules back in June 2016, we will wait once again for the country’s policy-makers to confirm and/or amend this federal law,” Hall wrote in an email.
That leaves those who teach on the side in limbo until the DCCCD determines whether they would be paid overtime or with a contract.
Staff with proper qualifications, typically a master’s degree, have been offered extra service contracts in the past.
These contracts allow staff to teach classes as adjunct professors.
“We have no guidelines on how they would be paid,” said Rachel Wolf, associate vice president of student services and academic success. “If there were actionable information, we would be totally up to let them teach.”
While the extra teaching duties some staff take on are not technically part of their regular jobs, the extra pay is something some of them depend on.
“In my position, I pay child support,” said Amanda Rangel, an Upward Bound program service coordinator for Skyline High School who also teaches ESL and developmental math. “When my child support was calculated, it was calculated with those extra service contracts. So they would take $300-$400 out of my paycheck basically that I don’t have any more. So it impacts my life pretty big.”
Rangel said she doesn’t want to switch jobs because of the work she does at Eastfield.
“I’m a certified high school teacher,” Rangel said. “I have a bachelor’s in math. I have a master’s in post-secondary education. So me teaching here and being able to work for Upward Bound is kind of a dream come true. You get your hands in all of it, so it’s fun.”
She said she’ll continue working with Upward Bound even if she can’t work as an adjunct in the spring, but she is holding onto hope that something will change.
“I’m like, ‘OK, please tell me we can teach in the spring at least,’ ” Rangel said. “Let’s stretch that just a little bit longer. Because, like I said, I really do enjoy teaching.”
The regulation has left deans with a difficult decision, Executive Dean of Continuing Education Judith Dumont said.
“It’s really hard to find quality educators and people who really believe in the mission of what we’re doing,” Dumont said. “If you’re staff here and you believe in that mission, which is excellence in teaching and learning, the teaching part is being yanked away.”
Dumont said her division has had to put posting out for new adjunct professors to fill the now-empty positions.
“We’re having to think fast and quick,” she said. “But it’s not just us that’s in this position, it’s every other sister school. … So finding talent, we’re having to really be creating in how we’re reaching out to people.”
Wolf said the executive council, which includes executive deans, made the decision to ensure everyone gets equal, fair treatment.
“We determined that we would temporarily put a moratorium on having out non-exempt employees teaching for extra pay,” Wolf said. “The reason we did that was because we did not have any guidelines from anyone on how to [pay extra-service contracts] ethically.”
Courtney Carter-Harbour, executive dean of arts and communications, said that the problems are spurred by confusion about what the regulation would mean for an entity like Eastfield.
We need “at least a little more direction and consistency in the message,” Carter-Harbour said. “I know that the district is also relying on other parties to inform them of some of the implication or the guidelines.”
The DCCCD has not given Eastfield administrators a clear answer, Carter-Harbour said. She said Eastfield administration have made the call to protect the institution.
“I think it’s a matter of being fair in terms of trying to figure out the best ways to compensate persons fairly,” she said. “I think it’s looking at all the different factors with FLSA.”
Carter-Harbour said she is worried about qualified staff leaving for better-paying jobs.
“We have a lot of talented staff members who have been teaching for us,” she said. “There’s always value in having those persons who teach for us who are really acclimated to the Eastfield culture.”
Carter-Harbour said that the information Eastfield gets will be relayed to employees as soon as possible.
It’s not as if we had all this information in August and sat on it and now we’re sharing it,” Carter-Harbour said. “I think it’s just understanding that this situation puts the entire college in a bind. … We’re just having to receive the information as it comes, and unfortunately, it’s coming late.”