Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Contract dispute arises between MSU and teaching assistants

An employment dispute with Michigan State University is moving toward arbitration as graduate students claim they weren't paid for work performed as teaching assistants.

According to an MSU contract negotiated by the Graduate Employees Union, May 15 was the last day of this year's spring semester, but work for the summer term started on May 13. The teaching assistants are seeking compensation for the work done for both terms during the overlapping two days. The assistants say they were only paid for one job in the overlap.

For most of the 330 assistants, the pay would come to about $200 each, meaning the overall sum for the university could total at about $66,000.

The union claims the same lack of pay occurred earlier this year between the summer and fall semesters, but a full tally of the affected students hasn't been made yet.

Depending on the school, teaching assistants usually make about $15,000, so the president of the Graduate Employees Union says a loss of about $200 is significant.

A spokesperson for MSU said the dispute is a matter of interpreting the union's collective bargaining agreement with the university. The university flatly rejected the union's grievance in August, saying the assistants "were properly paid for performing the duties for which they were appointed."

Detroit-area residents with employment contract concerns may want to keep an eye on this situation as it unfolds.

Negotiating employment contracts is a major concern for companies and organizations throughout Michigan. If a contract dispute arises, it is important to have a legal team on your side. These kinds of disputes can also be avoided through the careful preparation of agreements.

Source: lansingstatejournal.com, "MSU union alleges college shorted teaching assistants' paychecks," Matthew Miller, Sept. 19, 2013

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