Playground aides get job securities, union option

Playground aides get job securities, union option

(Calif.) One of the more contested bills undertaken last session requires school districts to elevate the job status of part-time playground employees into the classified service category.

It passed along party lines in September and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown despite strong objections from school administrators. The new mandates become effective on January 1.

Existing law defines “classified employees” of a district as those with a title, regular number of work hours, specific duties with a regular salary and associated benefits.

Until the passage of AB 670, authored by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, state law prohibited part-time playground employees from being included in the classified service.

The bill was sponsored by the California School Employees Association, which represents classified employees. The measure also had support from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the California Labor Federation and the California Teachers Association.

It should be noted that Thurmond is running for state schools chief and has the backing of most of the state’s employee unions.

In arguing for its passage last summer, Thurmond noted that playground aides perform duties similar to those done by classified workers. They directly supervise students during lunch and breakfast breaks, while also escorting them to playground area and make sure recess time is safely conducted.

He said it was a matter of fairness to allow the playground aides to become classified employees.

A recent client news brief from the education law firm of Lozano Smith noted that districts will need to be aware that playground aides have new rights:

  • Playground employees will no longer be considered "at-will," but instead will have a probationary employment period and gain permanency like other classified employees;
  • These employees are now entitled to due process in termination proceedings consistent with the Education Code and school district policy;
  • Employers will need to determine the date to be considered the first day in probationary status and to properly establish seniority dates for these employees;
  • Employees will be entitled to all statutory rights related to layoff and reemployment; and
  • Employees are entitled to all rights of classified service as provided by law including leaves, vacation pay and holidays.

Megan Macy, a partner at Lozano along with Janae Lopes, an associate attorney, also pointed out that the “inclusion of part-time playground positions in classified service does not automatically result in these positions becoming part of a classified bargaining unit.”

They said that the union may need to “seek a unit modification to include these positions with the bargaining unit depending on the existing language of the school district's classified collective bargaining agreement.” The unit modification, they said, will provide district employers the opportunity to negotiate the conditions of employment for these positions.