LANCASTER — Antelope Valley College will look to the California Supreme Court for relief in an ongoing issue over workday hours with the Antelope Valley College Federation of Classified Employees.
The Federation filed an unfair practice charge against AV Community College District with the state Public Employment Relations Board after the District modified its operational schedule in February 2014 to offer extended hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays.
The goal was to provide students greater access to support services. At the time, office hours fluctuated by department and season, running from 8 a.m. to 4:30 or 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Full-time classified employees worked a typical five-day workweek with eight hours each day, 40 hours per week. If they worked more than eight hours in a single day, they would be eligible for overtime.
The Federation’s complaint alleged the District violated the Educational Employment Relations Act by changing the hours of operation, which affected classified employees’ hours of work, without notice or opportunity to bargain.
AVCFCE President Pamela Ford polled Federation unit members in November 2013 about the proposed changes to the college’s operating hours. A majority of unit members voted against the proposal.
The modified workweek began in February 2014.
“If you wanted to work your eight hours, it wasn’t really an option,” Ford said.
Most supervisors did not allow it. If they did, Ford said the employees would have to take their work and move to another location.
The change impacted employees who had concerns about childcare, and those who cared for elderly parents, Ford said.
The change also made it difficult to schedule doctor’s appointments.
“The other great impact it had was our sick time or our vacation time,” Ford said.
Employees used an hour or two over the typical eight-hour day if they used a sick day or vacation day.
A Public Employment Relations Board Administrative Law Judge issued a proposed decision in August 2016 that applied to only a few Federation unit members, giving the District a partial win.
The Federation appealed to the full three-person PERB Board, challenging the proposed decision, and asked for a full review. The District also filed exceptions to request clarifications and modifications of the proposed remedy.
The PERB Board issued its decision in December, reversing the Administrative Law Judge’s proposed decision, and ruling in favor of the entire bargaining unit.
The ruling means the District will be required to pay overtime and back pay, plus interest, for all affected employees. The PERB Board called for the Federation and the District to negotiate a settlement.
“I am happy we prevailed. We prevailed three times,” Ford said. “I think it sends a message that the union needs to be recognized and the District and the union needs to work together.”
In response, the District filed a Writ of Extraordinary Relief with the state Court of Appeal.
The court denied the District’s petition “on the ground that the petitioner has not stated facts, evidence or legal authorities sufficient to demonstrate entitlement to extraordinary relief,” according to the court document filed on Aug. 23.
AV College President Ed Knudson notified AV College employees about the court’s decision in an Aug. 29 email.
“The District has the right to petition for review of this matter with the California Supreme Court, which it intends to do within the week,” Knudson wrote.
Knudson cited the “statewide importance of considering whether agencies such as PERB may impose a remedy that includes overtime compensation to an overly broad set of employees, where such compensation is inconsistent with the Education Code, and whether an award of back pay and interest should be stayed pending unreasonable delay in PERB issuing a decision.”
The petition would be filed against the PERB Board since they issue the decision.
If the Supreme Court does not accept the District’s petition, Knudson cautioned it “will have significant impact on the operations of the District and the District’s ability to offer alternative work schedules to employees.”
“PERB was very clear. … They required a Federation-led vote before implementing any schedule changes; they didn’t follow that process and therefore they violated the bargaining law,” Federation counsel David Conway an attorney with the Law Office of Robert J. Bezemek, said.
Conway added the PERB Board explained that in its decision.
The Court of Appeal denied the District’s first petition. He anticipated the state Supreme Court would as well.
“People have families; people have lives outside of work. And if you require them to stay for nine or 10 hours in a day, you’re going to miss out on opportunities with their children and families,” Conway said.