‘Clerical error’ in faculty wages prompts COC to ask for its money back 

College of the Canyons

College of the Canyons adjunct faculty members plan to ask the college about debt forgiveness at the college’s next governing board meeting, according to a union rep, after a mishap led to overpayment for about four months. 

Now the college needs its money back, according to a May 17 email from COC’s payroll department. 

The college expressed regret over the error Thursday but also a duty to recover the money, which totaled $120,000 affecting 270 professors. 

A spokesman for the college explained the mistake Thursday as a “clerical error” noticed during an annual report, which the college recognizes has created a difficult situation for some.  

“We regret that this occurred,” said John Green, associate vice president of district communications, “and steps are being taken to ensure that the payroll process is accurate moving forward. But as a taxpayer-supported institution, the college is legally required to recover these overpaid funds.” 

Green said the amounts varied because they were based on professors’ reported office hours, and the amounts ranged from $50 to $1,000, paid out over several months.  

Dan Portillo, president of COC’s union for adjunct faculty, AFT Local 6262, said there’s not much precedent for such an error, which was communicated to staff in an email May 17.   

The college attributed the overpayment to miscalculation that persisted from January to May, according to the email sent out from its payroll department. Adjunct faculty are paid monthly. 

“Due to that error, the total hours for the semester were doubled and you received more than the amount due for your office hours pay for any payments issued between Feb. 5, 2024, and May 3,, 2024,” according to the email, which was shared by a faculty member on condition of anonymity. “This overpayment needs to be collected as soon as possible.” 

Portillo said he has not had any official meetings with college officials on any plans for leniency in certain cases of hardship or if there were any concessions the district could make, but he planned to bring up the discussion at the district’s next governing board meeting in June. 

One of the questions he didn’t have an answer to yet was the legal repercussions for an employee unable to repay.   

When asked if any faculty contacted the union or the college regarding the error, Portillo said it’s likely most professors didn’t notice it, adding he didn’t, because their pay stubs often vary month-to-month. 

“We trust that whatever is on the check is correct,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. 

An online inquiry with the state’s Department of Labor Standards Enforcement into overpayment situations Thursday was referred to a 1999 letter from the office’s legal section, which states that while an employer may not attach a debt to an employee’s wages without the employee’s consent, the employer can pursue a civil action to recover a legal debt, which includes overpayment. 

Green said the college was trying to be flexible in the repayment, and that “most” of those affected had already contacted the college to arrange repayment, adding he did not have the exact figure available Thursday evening. 

“We do understand that it could definitely be a hardship for instructors to repay the funds all at once,” Green said, “so we’re working with those employees on payment plans.” 

The next meeting for the governing board of the Santa Clarita Community College District is scheduled for June 12. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS