UC Berkeley ordered to repay millions to teaching assistants

Students walk through Sather Gate on the UC Berkeley campus.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

UC Berkeley has been ordered to pay back millions in tuition and fees to hundreds of teaching assistants who complained they were hired at a part-time rate but worked close to the 10-hour-per-week minimum to qualify for benefits.

The union representing UC student workers filed a grievance over two years ago, alleging the teaching assistants, including many undergraduates, were hired to work at the campus’ electrical engineering and computer sciences department for eight hours per week.

By doing so, the university avoided paying contractually mandated tuition, fees and child care it otherwise would have to provide to employees who work at least 10 hours per week, the UC Berkeley chapter of the Academic Student Employees at the University of California alleged.

An arbitrator in the case ruled in favor of the union on Monday.


UC Berkeley will abide by the arbitrator decision, campus spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said Wednesday. She said the university and faculty in the department believed the students’ hours be kept to eight hours or less per week so the workload wouldn’t interfere with their academic performance.

A union representative told the East Bay Times the ruling affects about 1,000 teaching assistants, each owed somewhere from $6,500 to $7,500 per semester that they worked. The union says the teaching assistants are owed at least $5 million. Gilmore said the university believes the students are owed more than $1.5 million, but that it will take some time to determine the final amount.