Department of Labor ruling may mean a shortage of instructors for spring semester

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A new Department of Labor ruling could keep up to 250 academic advisors and other non-faculty employees from teaching UVU classes, leaving departments scrambling to find instructors for spring semester.

The update to the Fair Labor Standards Act, also known as the “Final Rule,” was announced May 18 and requires employers to reclassify their full-time, exempt employees who make less than $47,476 to non-exempt status by Dec. 1.

The major sticking point is that UVU policy prevents non-exempt employees from teaching as adjuncts, even if they are qualified.

Currently, exempt staff members who qualify are allowed to teach a limited number of credits, on their own time, as adjuncts. If moved to non-exempt, they will lose their teaching positions.

“As full-time staff, yeah, we have questions. We have concerns,” said Erin Donahoe-Rankin, academic advisor for philosophy and humanities.

As a department, advisors from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences emailed a letter of concern to school administrators asking them to reexamine how to interpret the new law and to consider provisions specific to higher education.

They also gave examples of other schools, such as University of Alaska and Mesa Community College, who have found ways to offer adjunct positions to non-exempt employees.

“As an academic advisor, I feel like we’re uniquely suited to bring up those concerns,” said Donahoe-Rankin. “I’m concerned not only about how this affects me as an employee, but I’m concerned about my students who are trying to get into classes. I’m concerned about my department who needs to staff those sections.”

Lori Duke, a full-time advisor who also teaches a Marital and Relationship Skills class, sent her own email to UVU President, Matthew Holland, and Human Resources hoping her personal story would help put a human face on the issue.

She relies on the extra income teaching provides, but she also cares about her students.

“I enjoy teaching,” said Duke. “I have the opportunity to reach students in the classroom that aren’t even in behavioral science.”

Mark Wiesenberg, associate vice president of human resources, said the issue is still being discussed by the administration.

“While the FLSA Compliance Committee and President’s Council have agreed on principles guiding this review and its application at UVU, no changes from current practice or policy have been implemented,” he said.

According to Wiesenberg, Human Resources is gathering information from a variety of sources and will continue to work with various groups on campus. New policy plans are expected to be finalized by mid-October or early November.