A wage dispute at Gila Community College concerning adjunct faculty members has led one teacher to file a complaint with the state labor board.
The teacher claims that Eastern Arizona College, which runs GCC, is violating a state statute that requires employers to pay employees twice a month, no more than 16 days apart.
Adjunct faculty members have traditionally received pay three times each semester. However, this semester, employee furloughs and the corresponding increased workload delayed the release of contracts, according to one faculty member who wished to remain anonymous. The source was not the faculty member who filed the complaint.
The delays in releasing contracts caused EAC to delay pay dates and condense the checks from three into two.
“That’s fine, I don’t think that gave anybody heartburn,” said the teacher. What caused the disgruntlement was that the change occurred five weeks into the semester.
At least one GCC dean threatened the teacher’s job after the teacher vocalized disenchantment and asked questions about pay, according to the source. The teacher said the level of dissatisfaction would likely not have risen so high had EAC communicated more with staff.
EAC has consistently held limited communication with some factions of GCC, including the board. Even GCC board members have experienced trouble with extracting information from some EAC officials.
Originally, the first paycheck was scheduled for early March. EAC then pushed back the date to late March, and now the first check is scheduled for April 7.
Meanwhile, faculty members have been teaching since the semester began in January. Teachers didn’t sign contracts until the second week of February. Teaching without a contract presents its own legal issues.
Board member Tom Loeffler says that could make GCC vulnerable to huge lawsuits if, for example, a faculty member is accused of improper conduct. A teacher would have no documentation of their duties on campus.
The source interviewed for this article said, “What irritates me the most is that I think this situation was foreseeable to some degree, and notice should have been given.”
According to the teacher, EAC is contending that the employees are contracted employees and not subject to the statute that outlines paycheck frequency, ARS 23-351.
However, this teacher receives W-2s and not the 1099 forms traditionally associated with contracted employees.
If the state labor board finds that EAC violated the statute, an employee could sue and receive triple the wages due.
Randall Maruca, director of the state labor department, said a letter has been sent to EAC requesting its side of the story. EAC has two weeks to respond. The complainer stays anonymous.
Maruca said the letter asks EAC to review policy and practices related to the dispute, and asks it to correct anything against the statute.
“With any complaint, the person complaining is speaking from their point of view,” Maruca said. “That’s half the story. We get the other half of the story.”
EAC Executive Vice President Brent McEuen did not respond to a request for comment.
Maruca said employers usually change practices if a violation is found. “More often than not, that’s what happens,” he said. In worst case, he can file a complaint with the attorney general, however that has never happened in Maruca’s experience.
Violators of the statute are charged with petty offenses, which carry no real punishment, said Maruca.
Gila County cannot operate its own college because its tax base and population fall beneath legal thresholds. It contracts with Graham County to perform administrative tasks.
Editor’s note: Two members of the Roundup editorial staff work as adjunct faculty members at Gila Community College. However, neither person contributed to nor had any prior knowledge of this story or the complaint.