Article 5, Section 3. Compensation and Appointment Percentage. Appointments shall not normally exceed 50% or .50 FTE, with the expectation that the assigned duties of the appointment will average no more than 20 hours per week during a semester, including but not limited to in-class and office hours. For appointments at levels other than 50% or .50 FTE, the number of hours per week will be proportional to the percentage of appointment.
For more information, see the related post: What is Work?
What does “average” mean in this context?
This is not a mathematical average. In this context, average means that it’s okay to occasionally go over 20 hours and occasionally or consistently work under 20 hours per week because on average, that’s 20 hours per week or less. This means that we agree to not stop working when the clock hits 20 hours and KU agrees to pay us for our work duties even when they take less than 20 hours. However, no GTA should consistently exceed 20 hours of work. As an example, if you are assigned 10 hours of work during the first and third week of each month, and 30 hours of work on the second and fourth weeks, this is a violation of our contract.
What if I worked less than 20 hours last week? Do I “owe” those hours to our University?
No, you do not. Hours of work not utilized do not “roll over” to the next week.
Do I have to work during holidays? Do I have to “make up” holiday hours in a different week?
No! Paid holidays are part of our financial compensation package, along with tuition waivers, healthcare subsidies, staff rates for tuition, paid sick and family leave, and a less-than-living wage. Workdays are defined as weekdays during which classes are in session or regularly scheduled final exams are being conducted. Any days which are holidays for students are also paid holidays for GTAs. If you normally work five hours a day Monday-Thursday and a holiday occurs in which the workdays are Monday-Wednesday, then you should expect to only work 15 hours that week, with 5 paid hours of leave on Thursday. If you normally work 5 hours a day Tuesday-Friday and a holiday occurs in which the workdays are Monday-Wednesday, then you should expect to only work 10 hours that week, with 10 paid hours of leave on Thursday-Friday.
What do I do if I go over 20 hours? Do I stop working? Do I file a wage claim?
This is where the legal average really comes into play. If you occasionally go over 20 hours and occasionally or consistently work under 20 hours per week, this is normal and within the bounds of our work. You cannot stop working when the clock hits 20 hours. However, if your work duties consistently or even more than occasionally exceed 20 hours, please use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you, and help you with your next steps, if any.
Do office hours and course preparation count as work?
Yes! All duties must fit within your weekly cap on hours per FTE, which is 20 hours for .50 FTE workers and scales from there. If you’re expected to upload materials and questions to Blackboard, those materials and questions must be supplied. Plus, the time spent reading through the provided materials, uploading the materials, checking uploads, etc. must be counted within your hours.
What should I do if I am asked to fulfill duties which take more than 20 hours on average?
Email your supervisor to let them know that your list of work duties accounts for more than 20 hours per week: “Hi, Dr. Supervisor! Thanks for sending my list of job duties. It looks like this will take about 22 hours a week, maybe a bit more when the big paper is due. Where can we best shave off two hours?” If the supervisor was unaware, this is a good chance for them to fix the issue. Regardless, this helps establish a record. If the supervisor fails to respond or fails to resolve this issue, please use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you, and help you with your next steps, if any.
What if my work takes less time as I become more experienced? Can I be assigned more duties?
No! First, per Article 5, Section 3 of our Memorandum of Agreement, GTA appointments are considered salaried instructional positions. As such, compensation is based on performance of job duties rather than hours worked. Next, we should never agree to do additional work without additional pay. Even if some GTAs are personally okay with it, this sets an unreasonable standard for all GTAs. If our work is a running track, it’s one with a set length, and it would be unfair to continually move the finish line further out because a few GTAs have an exceptional ability to run farther or faster. Finally, all GTA work should be fairly divided – and this division should be handled at the department level. It is not our job to distribute the work of our department.
What should I do if I am asked to fulfill one-time additional duties?
If it’s something small and you don’t mind doing it, let your supervisor know that you agree to make this modification this time and if any other duties will be cut to ensure you stay under your weekly cap on hours: “Hi, Dr. Supervisor! Thanks for the quick response. This is small enough that it looks like I can take care of it this time if I cancel Thursday’s office hours. Does that work for you?”
If you prefer not to do it and you feel good about it, you can let your supervisor know that this is outside of your work duties: “Hi, Dr. Supervisor! Unfortunately, I’m restricted from any duties not on the written list of duties I received at the beginning of the semester and/or academic year. Sorry about that! See you on Monday for class.”
If you aren’t comfortable with these types of communications, please use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you, and help you take your next steps, if any. (This can be as easy as using our training to help you draft a really friendly email.)
What if I was not asked to work extra hours but I know it’s expected and/or I feel pressured to do so?
Regardless of intent, this is a form of coercion and it’s not okay! Please use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you, and help you with your next steps, if any.
My supervisor said they cannot require me to work extra hours but I still felt pressured to “volunteer” to do this work for free. Is this legal?
KU administrators can neither ask nor allow GTAs or any other worker to “volunteer” unpaid labor because the Fair Labor Standards Act and Kansas State Statute 44-1202 both specify that all hours “suffered or permitted” to work must be paid. This is because the law recognizes that consent is impaired within a power differential, including the differential of power existing within a workplace.
What if I really want to work extra hours because I love my University. Is this legal?
KU cannot allow workers to “volunteer” unpaid labor because the Fair Labor Standards Act and Kansas State Statute 44-1202 both specify all hours “suffered or permitted” to work must be paid. This is because the law recognizes that consent is impaired within a power differential, including the differential of power existing within a workplace. Although sometimes GTAs do genuinely want to volunteer labor, allowing a few GTAs to do so will also allow more than a few GTAs to be abused.
“Suffered or permitted”? What does that mean?
This means that all work is work and all work counts. If you were ordered to do it, it counts. If you were asked to do it, it counts. If you were silently expected to do it, it counts. If you did it on your own initiative, it counts. All this time must be counted within your weekly cap on hours because our University is benefiting from the work being done. None of us can work “off the clock”. It is illegal and we cause a liability to our University if we do it. Common scenarios which always count towards your weekly cap include:
- If your office hours are over but a student needs to visit for longer or later than usual.
- If an assignment was particularly difficult and grading takes longer than planned.
- All time spent reading, considering, and responding to communications from students and/or supervisors. (Yes, this includes those suuuuper long emails from admin.)
- All time spent reviewing instructional materials or texts in preparation for your work.
“It is the duty of management to exercise control and see that work is not performed if the employer does not want it to be performed. An employer cannot sit back and accept the benefits of an employee’s work without considering the time spent to be hours worked. Merely making a rule against such work is not enough. The employer has the power to enforce the rule and must make every effort to do so. Employees generally may not volunteer to perform work without the employer having to count the time hours worked.”
What if I made a mistake and I’m correcting it?
If you make a mistake in your work, the time you spend on the correction of errors (or “rework”) count towards your weekly cap, even when you voluntarily do the rework. We’re human beings – we make mistakes and it’s KU’s job to account for that within their labor planning.
What if I am supposed to be available to work but can generally do other work during this time?
If you are directed, required, or expected to be available to your supervisor, your students, or for work altogether, these hours count towards your weekly cap. Even if you do other work for yourself or if you do nothing but wait for something to do or something to happen – these are still hours worked.
What if I can perform this work from home?
Hours worked include all time during which you are required or allowed to perform any work as a GTA, regardless of where the work is done, whether on campus, in the classroom, at home, or at some other location.
What if I have been working over my weekly cap?
It happens sometimes! The best thing to do is to use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you. The most common resolutions are reducing your job duties and accessing backpay* for previous unpaid hours or increasing your FTE to match your job duties and accessing backpay* for previous unpaid hours.
*This backpay is historically paid by the College of Graduate Affairs and not from your department’s budget.
But we’ve always done it this way – it’s just what grad workers do!
A tradition of exploitation is not one any of us should seek to continue.
But how will things get done if we can’t exploit graduate worker labor?
The weight of the entire academy is not on our shoulders. We have enough to handle with our own work as GTAs and as students, in addition to the outside work we do because we are paid less than a living wage and our family responsibilities and maybe sleeping every now and again. Academia is on a crash course of worker exploitation, and we cannot best serve our institutions by facilitating this disastrous course of action with the stuff of our lives. A better academy is possible – and we can help build the academy that we deserve by growing our union power and refusing to be silently exploited.
What if my situation isn’t addressed in this FAQ?
Please use this form to have your situation personally and confidentially reviewed by a GTAC grievance specialist. We will review your situation and options with you, and help you with your next steps, if any.