Class Says For-Profit Art School Stiffs Profs

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – The mounting problems of a for-profit post-secondary education company got worse after two former teachers filed a class action accusing the company of failing to pay a minimum wage and other unfair business practices.
     Marie Daland and Elle Weatherup, former teachers at the Art Institute of California’s San Diego campus, filed suit in Alameda Superior Court on April 7, claiming the college’s parent company, Education Management Corporation, did not pay them a minimum wage, provide adequate paid rest periods, compensate for phone use and violated unfair business practices laws “to reduce compensation and increase its own profits.”
     Specifically, the teachers say the company paid them $57 per hour for time spent in the classroom, but did not pay them for time spent in course preparation, preparation of lesson plans, office hours, tutoring and mentoring students, teacher development courses, attending school events, grading, setting up the classroom and grading students, according to their 15-page complaint.
     “Course pay failed to compensate class members at all for the many hours of work that they were required to perform and did perform outside of classroom time,” the adjunct professors say in their complaint.
     Additionally, the school required them to communicate with students by telephone but did not compensate them for the use of their cellphones. And although by law the professors should have been given a paid rest break after every 3 ½ hours of teaching, the school frequently required them to consult with students during their breaks instead.
     The two teachers claim the labor code violations are consistent with Education Management’s past disreputable practices.
     “Another aspect of that pattern of illegality was its abusive recruiting practices that lured students into defendant’s for-profit educational programs and then failed to provide requisite educational services,” the complaint says.
     The teachers say that Education Management agreed to a $95 million settlement with the Department of Justice and the Attorney Generals from 39 states, relating to allegations of using fraudulent means to recruit and graduate students. The settlement forced the company to forgive several students loans and reform its recruiting, admissions, enrollment and counseling services significantly.
     In 2011, Frontline released a documentary called “Educating Sergeant Pantzke,” which brought greater scrutiny to the schools. The documentary followed Chris Pantzke, who was enrolled at an online program at the Art Institutes studying photography, before he realized that he was essentially “throwing away taxpayer money.”
     The company, which owns nearly 110 schools throughout four higher education systems, delisted its stock from the NASDAQ in 2014.
     Weatherup also taught at the Art Institute of California’s San Francisco campus.
     In addition to class certification, the professors seek a declaration that the school violated state labor law as well as back pay for minimum wages and missed breaks, waiting time penalties and a court order to reimburse the class for the cellphone use and other expenses.
     Neither Education Management’s press department nor the professors’ attorney Julian Hammond returned emails requesting comment by press time.

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