AB 736 ‘makes it impossible’ for CLU to make adjuncts salaried employees

Emily Henbest, Reporter

California Assembly Bill 736, designed to grant exempt status and establish minimum salary requirements for adjunct or part-time faculty, will have no effect on adjunct faculty compensation at California Lutheran University.

“The salary amount required by AB 736 makes it impossible for us to switch back to a salary pay structure,” Karissa Oien, manager of Faculty Affairs, said in an email interview.

The bill amended California Labor Code to include a minimum compensation floor for adjunct faculty of $126 per classroom hour in 2021 and $135 in 2022. This minimum compensation is applicable to salaried adjunct faculty members at California independent nonprofit colleges and universities.

Currently, Cal Lutheran part-time or adjunct faculty are all hourly-wage employees and submit bi-weekly time sheets. 

District 44 Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, who authored the bill, said in a September 2020 press release that the bill represents “a substantial pay increase” for some adjunct faculty.

“Adjunct faculty are [currently] classified as non-exempt because the state of California mandates that to be ‘exempt’ requires a minimum annual salary. As part-time employees, adjunct faculty do not make this salary and the state of California does not allow this to be prorated for part time employment,” Oien said.

Adjunct faculty at Cal Lutheran were switched to the non-exempt status in the summer of 2019 after the class action Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) lawsuits threatened private California universities with litigation in violation of labor laws stemming from the unclear professional exemption definition within IWC.

Angela Fentiman, Cal Lutheran adjunct professor of Communication and Faculty Senate adjunct faculty representative, said in a Zoom interview that the bill is about more than just compensation.

“It really is about moving away from the time sheets and that is really at the heart of the motivation of why adjunct faculty would like to see this bill get implemented,” Fentiman said.

The extra administrative task that time sheets present, especially in a time of remote learning, is a concern to some adjunct faculty.

“Adjunct faculty really do feel it takes away from our time and energy that we can give to the classroom,” Fentiman said. “The provost has talked about improving the process to make it more streamlined.”

The Office of Academic Affairs acknowledges this challenge and Leanne Neilson, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said in a Zoom interview that they are taking steps to make the timesheet submission process smoother.

“We have automated emails that go out that let them know if there are any errors on their time sheets or if they are going over and need to watch that and there is a form they can fill out if they need to request additional hours,” Neilson said.

It is unclear if and when Cal Lutheran adjunct faculty can go back to exempt status under AB 736.

“The state would have to prorate this amount so part-time faculty could be salaried,” Neilson said. “Or if there was another bill that went through with different criteria. But under the current bill there isn’t a way we could do that, unfortunately… we would all love to switch back.”