Exploring Classified Vacation Variability Within California Community Colleges
By, Michael Monsour, M.A.
Chief Union Steward, CSEA, Ch. 725
It would be logical to assume that California Community Colleges, as part of a singular higher education system, would offer relatively similar vacation benefits for Classified employees. However, this assumption does not appear to be supported in practice. For example, at the Palomar Community College District in San Diego, a starting classified employee will accrue 18 days of vacation. In contrast, within the Peralta Community College District, Classified employees will start at the legal minimum of 10 vacation days and maintain this rate for five years. But the variability isn’t just between the starting vacation days that districts offer. All districts use some form of a tiered vacation accrual system tied to years of service. However, the timelines used by districts, and the amounts of vacation accrued at each major milestone year, is grossly inconsistent. Take for example Compton Community College District, which offers 22 days of vacation starting at the 9th year of service. Compare this to Desert Community College District, where Classified employees will earn the same 22 days of vacation starting at the 25th year of service. Of course, some variation is to be expected with different unions and negotiation practices at each site. Still, the differences for this benefit are striking, and signify a need to update the current education code to provide more structure across the system. For reference, California Code, Education Code – EDC § 88197 states the following:
“The vacation shall be as determined by the community college district, but shall be not less than five-sixths of a day for each month in which the employee is in a paid status for more than one-half the working days in the month, if the employee is regularly employed five days per week, seven to eight hours a day.”
To create better parity within the system, the Code needs to speak to fair levels of initial vacation accrual rates and to the length of time districts can impose before classified employees can earn longevity vacation benefits. For example:
“The vacation shall be as determined by the community college district but shall be not less than
five-sixths of a one day for each month in which the employee is in a paid status nor less than two days for each month following the completion of ten years of classified service. This applies to Classified service employees who are employed for more than one-half the working days in the month, if the employee is regularly employed five days per week, seven to eight hours a day.”
By adding these basic parameters into the Education Code, it would immediately create more equitable leave practices (equal vacation for equal work) amongst the California Community Colleges. Of course, districts and unions could still bargain higher levels than these prescribed baselines, but the education code could provide better safeguards to protect against unreasonable vacation accrual rates or arbitrary vacation timelines, all while eliminating any associated low-cap vacation maximums.
Notes: Below are the specific collective bargaining agreement excerpts referenced in this article as a single PDF with the referenced pages extracted. In addition, a chart is provided of the initial vacation days offered by each district we reviewed. This article is opinion only, and we encourage all of our readers to independently verify the findings herein, and to send us corrections as needed. While ideally, the contracts being compared would be from the exact same year, unfortunately, this was not feasible, and the most recent publicly available contracts were used instead. It is possible that the Districts noted in the article/charts have changed their vacation CBA articles in the interim periods between the contract date and the time this article was posted and/or read. I would welcome any change that improves Classified vacation rights, but maintain the plea for updates to the affiliated Education Code.