Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Wages withheld

    Paydays illegally delayed for Laney tutors and professors in years-long labor code violations

    ripLaney College has been illegally withholding wages from their employees for years. 
    These consistent delays in the issuance of paychecks have caused unnecessary and avoidable problems for both professors and students workers who have had the experience of not getting paid on time. 
    (Many have experienced this problem, including employees who still currently work for the college. Thus, to protect the identities and jobs of our sources, we have used pseudonyms, unless otherwise noted.)

    STUDENTS WRONGED

    Payment for hours worked in the current month is usually on the 15th of the following month. Tutors have to fill up a timesheet at the end of the current month for payment to be processed and released on time, but this was not always the case. 
    One employee, Jane, recalled having had three consecutive paychecks of tutors at the Writing Center delayed for three months. 
    Jane’s problem was resolved, but only for a few of the tutors, while Jane’s other colleagues had their paychecks further delayed for almost the entire semester. 
    A former employee, Louis, summed up a similar experience.
    “We started working in August, we didn’t generally get paid the first time until November,” Louis said. “We started working in January, we didn’t get paid until March.” 
    This is a clear violation of the California Labor Code.
    Section 204 of the Labor Code states: Wages earned between the 1st and 15th days, inclusive, of any calendar month must be paid no later than the 26th day of the month during which the labor was performed, and wages earned between the 16th and last day of the month must be paid by the 10th day of the following month. 
    According to the labor code, other payroll periods such as weekly, biweekly (every two weeks) or semimonthly (twice per month) when the earning period is something other than between the 1st and 15th, and 16th and last day of the month, must be paid within seven calendar days of the end of the payroll period within which the wages were earned. 
    The delay in getting paid has caused problems for those who rely on their paycheck to survive.
    For example, international students who, by law, can’t work outside off-campus, are hit especially hard by such a delay.
     “Eventually, they do pay us,” Louis said. “But, just like everybody else, we need to pay our bills on time and it’s a hardship when we can’t.”
    According to Brin, another Laney employee, reasons for the delays ranged from “Oh, you’re not going to get paid this month because we are backlogged,” to “We do not have the funds in yet,” or “You’ll get everything together later.”

    PROFESSORS WRONGED

    The issue of delayed payment is not exclusive to student workers. Laney College Professor Alicia Caballero-Christenson had also experienced a delayed paycheck when she was a part-time instructor in 2012 to 2013. 
    Caballero-Christenson, who then was working full-time at a non-profit organization as well as teaching part-time at Laney, said that she was contracted to teach a civic engagement course under ethnic studies. It was a late start course specifically around community engagement. It was funded by foundation money and a non-profit agency. 
    It took months for Caballero-Christenson to get paid for the class. 
    “While the agency, at the time, had already given money to Peralta to distribute for that class. Because it was coming from a different pool of funds through the district, it took a very long time for them process the payment for my work in teaching that class,” Caballero-Christenson said.
    Caballero-Christenson added that there was no warning from the administration about the delay.
    “At the time, I think there was just a lack of accountability and response from the district and the payroll office,” Caballero-Christensen said.
    The reason for the delay in Caballero-Christenson’s case could be applied to the case of the other employees. It was because of the different processes involved. 
    “You have to go through so many administrative pools to get any answers. It’s payroll but, because it was going through a department, you also had to get it through the deans and the VPI and the department chairs,” Caballero-Christenson said. 
    “There are so many pieces to it and there are so many pieces of paper to it. If one piece of paper doesn’t get signed or it gets backlogged in one person’s email, then the whole process can get delayed.”
    The situation is what Caballero-Christensen called “an example of an antiquated bureaucracy.” “We rely so much on paper documents,” Caballero-Christensen said, “and we rely so much on one or two particular people in particular positions that if they’re gone on maternity leave, they’re sick, if they forgot to check their email, they deleted their email, or one piece of paper didn’t go through their assistants desk to their desk, all of a sudden the process is completely stopped.”
    Caballero-Christensen suggested the need for the district to build systems for the 21st century. 
    “You go to certain non-profit agencies, you can get someone paid like that because their systems are so quick,” Caballero-Christensen said. “We are a big institution, that means that it’s even more of a reason why we need to have very tight, clear, quick systems that don’t rely on just one or two people.”

    GOING FORWARD

    According to Cassandra Upshaw, students she assisted with paperwork processing were all tied with Learning Communities, with the Writing Center as their assigned location and were being paid out of special funds. Considering that programs with special funding require specific bureaucratic methods, it has been a learning process for them on how to be efficient.
    “As Laney successfully secures special funds to support our Learning Communities we find ourselves in a learning process regarding how to efficiently communicate and expand as we include more faculty, staff, and students as stakeholders,” Upshaw said. “We have made notable improvements in how we streamline these processes, and going forward are both implementing them and seeking more methods to improve efficiency.”
    Upshaw is optimistic about the future with regards to the problem of delayed payment for employees at Laney.
    “We have every reason to expect that past problems hindering timely hiring and payment for student tutors and assistants are just that, in the past,” Upshaw said.

    LOOKING BACK

    Any promises for the future, however, may not be enough for those wronged in the past.
    KR Nava, a Laney College student, found work as a writing tutor at the Writing Center at Laney in the fall semester of 2015. (Disclaimer: Nava is the editor-in-chief of this paper.)
    “By the time it got to the end of October, I still hadn’t been paid for any of the time that I’d worked in September or any of the time that I’ve worked in October,” Nava said. 
    “I was informed at the very last minute that wages for the month of September would be withheld until the end of October. I was informed at the very last minute that wages for the month of September and the first two weeks of October would be further withheld until November 15.”
    Nava sent a public resignation to all of the tutoring heads, tutors, and then-president of the college, Dr. Elñora T. Webb. 
    In the email, Nava wrote: “At the beginning of the semester, I was so impressed with and enthralled by the professionalism and warmth of Laney College employees and my supervisors; I extolled the virtues of the tutoring programs at every opportunity and encouraged students to apply to work with you all.”
    Nava continued: “I cannot justify that same encouragement on my part anymore. Students–especially international students, who have no other option when it comes to employment–should never be put through the ringer like this by the institution they attend.” 
    Richardson stated the cause of the delays in payment during the last semester.
    “At the beginning of the 2015–2016 school year there was a delay in the funding of the tutoring labs,” Richardson said. 
    “However, all tutors were paid all the monies that were due them as soon as the college received its funding. Since then all payments have been distributed per the pay period schedule.”
    Richardson added, “Equity funding has been identified to ensure that tutoring funding is in place at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester.”

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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