PEF wins court case for fair pay for summer teachers at DOCCS
By SHERRY HALBROOK
A NYS Supreme Court judge ruled in June in favor of a lawsuit PEF filed on behalf of teachers and vocational instructors at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, who are in 10-month (academic year) positions, but also work over the summer vacation.
Only some employees in the 10-month positions choose to work over the summer break, and they have been compensated for that additional service. However, what PEF has successfully challenged is the way DOCCS and the Office of the State Comptroller have been calculating that hourly pay rate on a “one-size-fits-all” basis.
PEF proved that to comply with state law individual pay rates must be calculated for the summer work of these employees, and those rates are going to be a bit higher than the rate the state has been using.
“I am pleased the court saw the justice in our arguments and has directed the state to correct its method of calculation of pay rates to provide more fair compensation to our members,” said PEF President Wayne Spence, who joined PEF Executive Board member Steven Drake as lead plaintiffs in the case. Drake is an education supervisor, vocational at Mohawk Correctional Facility.
“Our members deserve to receive the rate of pay as established in the law, and I’m proud the union has been able to defend that right,” Spence added.
Justice L. Michael Mackey issued his decision June 5. The state has until mid-July to appeal.
At the heart of the disputed pay calculations is the number of days each employee worked during the academic year. For convenience, the state has assumed, since at least 1977, the employee worked 1,736 hours or 217 days (the number of calendar days excluding weekends) and used that number to divide their annual (10-month) salary to come up with an hourly rate that was used to pay them for hours they worked over the summer. That assumption was ratified in a state comptroller’s payroll bulletin issued April 27, 2018.
The law requires that each DOCCS teacher who works the summer between academic years be compensated “at the hourly rate of pay received by him in his regular position.” And both DOCCS and the OSC conceded that the actual number of days these employees work during the academic year actually range between 204 and 214, rather than the 217 the state used to calculate hourly pay rates. Since dividing their annual salary by the smaller number of working days/hours, would produce a higher hourly rate than the rate in use, PEF argued the employees were being shortchanged and Judge Mackey agreed.
For example, in Drake’s case, he worked 208 days during the 2017-18 academic year and should have been paid $1.69 more per hour for 2018 summer work than he received.
Mackey ordered the OSC and DOCCS to recalculate the hourly rates of compensation for the summer work performed by all members of the affected class.
Nathan Nichols, one of the PEF attorneys who worked on this case, said the order to recalculate would likely apply to the rate of pay for work performed in the summer of 2018, and then the new individual rates would apply to work performed this summer and in future summers.
Implementation of the judge’s order will be delayed if the state appeals his decision.