This story was originally published in the Dec. ’13 issue of the Central Circuit.
Following inquiries made by the Central Circuit, SCCC Student Leadership (SL) will begin paying Student Leaders for required trainings, in compliance with state labor law.
SL is currently considering how to pay this year’s student leaders (including the editorial staff of the Circuit) for a mandatory, then-unpaid week-long training they underwent in September. State law requires that employees be paid at least minimum wage for mandatory trainings. The unpaid training appears to have been an oversight, continued from the days when student leaders received stipends, which do not have the same training-payment requirements as hourly wage positions.
Student leaders stopped receiving stipends and became hourly wage employees last year after Seattle Colleges instituted stricter rules for stipends, according to dean of SL Lexie Evans. “We couldn’t keep paying them stipends because they weren’t really doing stipend work,” she said in interview, since stipended work essentially treated students “as contractors.”
Now that the wage-implications of that change have become clear, “I would like to get everyone paid for orientation before the end of this quarter,” Evans said. Shortly before going to print, the Circuit learned that Student Leaders will receive 26.5 hours of back-pay in early December. Because the budgets for SL boards – such as the Associated Student Council (ASC) and the College Activities Board (CAB) – are set annually, it is not clear where funding for the orientation wages will come from. Evans says she expects that the advisors to SL boards will have to work within their existing budgets to meet the unplanned expense of orientation wages, either by cutting expenses elsewhere (for example, by reducing paid hours) or by increasing revenue (for example, by raising money through events). While SL, which is entirely funded by SCCC students via S&A fees, has a “reserve fund” of about $700 thousand, Evans says she is “trying not to” use it. “I feel that a department should work within its budget” except in cases where “students are really suffering,” she said. SL also has a contingency fund of $1023.
Based on this reporter’s calculations of the length and attendance of SL orientation, wage repayment will cost at least $17,000.
According to the WA Supreme Court case SPEAA vs. Boeing, employees who participate in mandatory trainings are guaranteed at least minimum wage. The court’s conclusion noted that:
Boeing concedes its mandatory pre-employment orientation sessions constituted work for the employees. The employees chose to proceed under theories of contract, Washington wage-hour laws, and equity.