Oakland Unified must pay back pay to substitute teachers during pandemic: arbitrator

An arbitrator in a dispute between the Oakland Unified School District and its teachers' union ruled that the district violated an agreement with the union and must provide back pay to substitute teachers.

The Oakland Education Association brought the grievance against the district last fall at the beginning of the last school year, claiming the district was not honoring an agreement to hire substitute teachers to provide additional support to students during distance learning due to the COVID pandemic. 

The union claimed the district failed to uphold the agreement by hiring only a fraction of the substitutes who had applied or tried to apply for the positions.

The California State Mediation and Conciliation Service panel of independent labor arbitrators found the district failed to fulfill the agreement on several counts, including the following:   

  • Failed to to hire substitutes from the agreed-upon pool of substitutes.
  • Failed to provide substitutes effective and timely access during the application process.
  • Failed to monitor the hiring of special assignment substitutes by the site administrators.
  • Failed to provide Chromebooks to substitutes in a timely manner causing them to be without adequate technology for most of the fall term.   

The ruling requires the district to pay 18 substitute teachers for the days they would have worked had they been hired, as well as to as many as 145 more substitutes - to be determined by the district and the union together - who may be eligible for some back pay.