Can my teacher wife get back pay or restitution from her university?
August 9, 2006 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Can my teacher wife get back pay from her school district or restitution from her university?

So she graduated in '03 with a Masters degree and soon after began teaching full time. Since then she hasn't been paid appropriately for her level of education because her university never processed her degree.

She did pay for processing and the check was cashed. Her pay stubs seemed to be in order but a visit to the district clued her in to the problem (her official transcript had her listed as having 102 units and no masters degree).

It was a clerical error on the part of the university and has recently been rectified. She will now be getting her full pay.

Is it possible to get compensation from either the district or the university for the lost pay?
posted by snsranch to Law & Government (11 answers total)
Has she asked?
posted by R. Mutt at 4:56 PM on August 9, 2006

Talk to the school's HR department. Then, if needed, a lawyer.
posted by mkultra at 4:59 PM on August 9, 2006

She'll want to get in touch with the union, also. They'll know what needs to be done and can act as an intermediary between HR and your wife. I'd hold off on hiring a lawyer except as a last resort.

IMHO, hell yes she should be paid back pay, and I doubt she'll have too much trouble getting it.
posted by letitrain at 5:17 PM on August 9, 2006

No, she hasn't asked. She loves her job and doesn't want to ruffle any feathers with the district. But it looks like the advice here is to work with the district and not her university.
posted by snsranch at 5:37 PM on August 9, 2006

I'm with letitrain.

This is the unions job.
posted by mmdei at 6:49 PM on August 9, 2006

I am not a lawyer, but the University's error caused measurable financial damage, and that is usually retrievable by legal means.

I'd say she should talk to the union, they'll ask the school district (who acted in good faith and made no error), they may say no, but ultimately, I think the University is most likely to cough up the money.
posted by chimaera at 9:34 PM on August 9, 2006

I can't imagine why the district would pay her.
I'm not sure how you manage to go 3 years without noticing you're being underpaid, but if she was hired with the transcript she had(the incorrect one), then she was paid appropriately as far as the district is concerned.
If the transcript is wrong, then that's between her and the university.
It can't hurt to ask the union, at the very least, she'll get some free legal advice, but I'd suspect that the University should be the target of any action, not the school district.
posted by madajb at 10:46 PM on August 9, 2006

This is exactly the sort of things unions are for.

I understand that she's worried about ruffling feathers, but respectfully requesting something that is rightfully hers shouldn't stir the pot. She needs to start by just asking for it.

They've been getting a teacher with a graduate degree for the price of an undergrad degree. It's possible that they'll pay her what she's been worth all this time without too much hassle if she just asks, or has her union ask for her. I'd say the fact that the school district brought it to her attention is a positive sign in this regard.

Her union has trained representatives that are versed in the relevant law, and (perhaps more importantly in this case) they are experts in the specifics of her contract. They have training and time to give her educated advice and/or represent her and negotiate on her behalf. This is what she pays union dues for.

/union rep
posted by raedyn at 8:13 AM on August 10, 2006

If she is worried about becoming involved in some protracted process, keep in mind that not everything the union becomes involved in is a big long legal battle. If her union is worth anything, most of what they do is from informal discussions. They will porbably try and approach the employer first before starting some big formal process. Very often the Union and the Employer can come to an agreement through discussion. Grievances etc are just a formal process for conflict resolution. We don't even know if there's any conflict here, because no one has approached the employer for the back pay. It's entirely possible that she, a union rep, and an HR person can sit down, look at the mea culpa documentation from the University (if she doesn't have this, she should get it) and agree to give her what she's been worth all this time.

I see these sorts of discussions and resolutions all the time, and I'm in a workplace that has recently been on strike, has major pension issuesand generally has pretty strained labour relations as of late. If we can come to mutual understandings in this environment, a less strained workplace may be even more condusive to a straightforward resolution. If they try this and it isn't successful, the union will encourage her to pursue it through the formal channels. I would also encourage her to consider this because she deserves the money, and it's only fair that they should pay her what she's worth. But she is free to stop pursuing it at anytime if she becomes uncomfortable with the process.

Bottom line: It doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by raedyn at 8:28 AM on August 10, 2006

Yay union reps!

/union organizer.
posted by crabintheocean at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2006

Thank you all for the great comments and advice.
posted by snsranch at 5:54 PM on August 11, 2006

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