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$33 million in back pay for SESIS work going to members

New York Teacher

The Department of Education on Nov. 18 agreed to provide $33 million in back pay to thousands of UFT members who have spent many hours outside their regular workday since Jan. 1, 2013 logging student data onto the Department of Education’s Special Education Student Information System.

The DOE and the UFT will meet to determine exactly how the money will be divided. Once that decision is made, the DOE has 60 days to begin divvying up the $33 million lump sum that it agreed to allocate among SESIS users in compensation for time spent outside their regular work hours, excluding lunch. UFT members in all titles will be eligible for back pay based on the SESIS system’s own tracking of members’ time logged in to the system. The money will not be pensionable.

The SESIS settlement, which was part of a wider agreement on SESIS issues [see story below], puts an end to SESIS litigation that has dragged on for five years.

“This system created by the Bloomberg administration has been a huge burden on our members,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Finally, after five years, we are close to a final resolution.”

In 2013, an arbitrator found the DOE in violation of the workday provision of the contract and ordered the DOE to compensate all SESIS users for time spent outside their regular work hours from September 2011, when the system was launched by the Bloomberg administration, through Dec. 30, 2012. That landmark ruling resulted in the payment of more than $40 million to 30,000 UFT members for work done outside the workday through Dec. 31, 2012.

Extending the problem for years to come, the DOE ignored the arbitrator’s order to negotiate with the UFT a process that would enable members to get their SESIS work done. Instead, in February 2013, the DOE issued a memo prohibiting staff from working outside their regular workday on SESIS and unilaterally determined the additional time that certain titles would be allowed to have to do SESIS work. Many members continued to do work outside regular hours in violation of the ban since the time allocated proved insufficient.

The case landed back before the arbitrator.

In the 2014 contract, the DOE agreed that speech teachers in single-session schools could do SESIS work during the 155 minutes allocated each week for professional development, parent engagement and Other Professional Work. But many speech teachers were not able to complete their SESIS work in that time frame either.

To date, the arbitrator had convened 20 hearings, featuring testimony from more than a dozen UFT witnesses, including many rank-and-file SESIS users. Yet, the arbitration case remained far from complete. The $33 million payment, coupled with required fixes to SESIS itself, settles the arbitration.