July 2016 Newsletter – Community College Districts

Court of Appeals Clarifies Rights of Adjunct Faculty with Preferential Status

A recent court of appeals decision discussed the distinctions between a community college district’s right to release adjunct faculty at will and the preferential status some districts afford to adjunct faculty under the CBA. In Santa Monica College Faculty Association v. Santa Monica Community College District, the district revoked the preferential status of three adjunct faculty. Under the parties’ CBA, adjunct faculty members had the right to be reemployed so long as “the need for the assignments for which the associate faculty member is qualified continues.” The re-employment rights could only be revoked for specific reasons, including a negative evaluation, being guilty of misconduct, or declining all assignments. Furthermore, before termination of adjunct status, the CBA guaranteed that the faulty member be given written notice of the reason for such termination.

At arbitration, the district did not produce any evidence to support the adjunct faculty of being guilty of misconduct or other reason to revoke the preferential status. Instead, the District argued that it may terminate temporary employees pursuant to Education Code Section 87665, which permits a governing board to terminate “the employment of a temporary employee at its discretion at the end of a day or week” and further states that the decision “is not subject to judicial review except as to the time of termination.”

The union argued that the CBA language concerning reemployment rights was controlling because Education Code Section 87482.9 makes “[t]he issue of earning and retaining of annual reappointment rights… a mandatory subject of negotiation.”

Reviewing the arbitration award, the court noted that the termination of employment and the revocation of reappointment rights are not the same thing. Instead, there are “separate statutes governing the dismissal of temporary faculty at community colleges and the reappointment of part-time, temporary faculty at community colleges.” Reading the statutes together, the court held that Section 87482.9 obligated the district to the requirements it negotiated in the CBA when it revoked the preferential status of the adjunct employees. Importantly, because the court read the statutes together, the court rejected the District’s argument that its right under the Education to dismiss a temporary faculty member for any reason superseded the for cause language relating to preferential status in the CBA. (See Board of Education v. Round Valley Teachers Association (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 269; Sunnyvale Unified School Dist. v. Jacobs (2009) 171 Cal. App. 4th 168.)

District’s should carefully review their collective bargaining agreements and consult legal counsel before making decisions regarding continued employment of adjunct faculty members with preferential rehire rights. While the District retains the right to dismiss a temporary employee, including adjunct faculty, at its discretion, at the end of any day or week, the District must its CBA before revoking the priority consideration rights of adjunct faculty.

For more information regarding this article, please contact Daniel Lowe at dlowe@ericksonlaw.com. For questions in general regarding this newsletter, please contact Kristina Limon at klimon@ericksonlaw.com.

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This publication was prepared solely for information purposes and should not be construed to be legal advice.  If you would like further information on this matter, please contact our office.

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