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MJC must rehire three laid off professors, rules Superior Court

POSTED March 23, 2012 10:24 p.m.

The Stanislaus Superior Court ruled that the Yosemite Community College District acted improperly in laying off three faculty members in budget cuts last year.

Those faculty members – Columbia College librarian Brian Greene, Modesto Junior College arts professor Haleh Niazmand, and industrial technology professor Jon Kropp – should have been retained, slotting into other positions under state “bumping” regulations.

The three faculty members must be reinstated with back pay and benefits, per the court ruling. They may either assume their old posts, or new positions; the YCCD has yet to formally decide how to deal with the ruling.

The community college district may yet decide to appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals.

Included in the Education Code, “bumping” requires districts to lay off the least senior employees when cutbacks occur. Then, more senior employees can “bump” into other positions they meet the minimum qualifications for, laying off newcomers instead.

The three faculty members – and their union, the Yosemite Faculty Association – successfully argued that they met the minimum qualifications for other posts.

The union argued in April 2011 before an administrative law judge that as many as 11 employees, laid off as part of $8 million in cutbacks which eliminated entire programs from the college, should have been allowed to bump into other positions.

“None of these respondents deserve to be fired, and none of them can legally be fired,” union attorney Robert Bezemek said at those proceedings.

Those hearings stretched over two days, with the union arguing employees met minimum qualifications for other posts – if not today, then at the time of their hire. The district argued that faculty should be required to meet current equivalencies, and should not be eligible for a hearing process to determine equivalencies.

The administrative law judge then found that only one laid off employee – Alan Layne, a printing instructor – was qualified to teach in another field.

The union appealed that ruling to the Stanislaus Superior Court in a civil case, leading to the ruling to reinstate Greene, Niazmand, and Kropp.

Niazmand qualified to teach computer graphics, and Greene to run the Academic Achievement Center, the Stanislaus Superior Court found. Kropp, who previously taught numerous classes dual-listed in electronic technology and industrial technology, qualified as an electronic technology professor.

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