DOE sued again for back pay
The lawsuit, which follows on an award for substitutes, likely amounts to "millions"
Nearly two months after substitute teachers won a class-action lawsuit for millions in back pay from the state, a similar suit has been filed on behalf of part-time teachers.
The lawsuit filed yesterday by part-time public school teacher Dianne Kawashima claims the state's part-timers are also due back pay from the Department of Education since their pay is supposed to be tied to that of substitutes.
"It's clear that there is a chronic problem with the DOE underpaying people," said attorney Paul Alston, who is representing both groups of teachers.
A department spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The suit does not specify a monetary claim, but says "the DOE has underpaid all part-time employees since 1996 in breach of its contractual obligation."
Alston said the back pay likely amounts to "some millions" of dollars.
A state Circuit Court judge ruled in December that the department had underpaid thousands of substitute teachers for years, in violation of a 1996 state law mandating they be paid the same per diem rate as a certain class of full-time teacher. The judge ruled out back-pay claims before 2000.
The new lawsuit states that since department code bases part-timer pay on substitute pay, part-time teachers have also been underpaid over the same period.
"These are like dominoes, falling one after another," Alston said.
Part-time teachers, who are limited to 17.5 hours a week and paid about $20 a hour, fill a variety of roles in support of their full-time counterparts in Hawaii's public schools. They do not belong to the state teachers union or enjoy the fringe benefits that full-time teachers do.
They are believed to number in the thousands, but precise figures could not be obtained yesterday from the department.
The number of substitute teachers affected by the back-pay ruling has been estimated at 9,000. Alston has estimated the amount owed to the substitutes at between $13 million and $22 million.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Bennett said earlier in the week that the state is considering an appeal of the substitute ruling.