The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District committed wage theft by violating the contract plan for sick days for some teachers, the president of the Burnsville Education Association said this month.

District officials denied doing anything wrong, saying they followed the contract language and common practice.

“I really wish that the Board would get involved and think about doing what’s right and stepping-in because wage theft is very serious,” Wendy Drugge, the president, told two Board of Education members during a listening session before the board’s regular meeting Jan. 9.

The union accuses the district of not following contract language that says 10 days of personal illness leave time “shall be deposited to each teacher at the beginning of each school year and prorated when employed less than a full school year.”

Drugge said the district instead reduced those 10 days for teachers who had scheduled leaves and unpaid days. As a result, teachers have needed to take unpaid days off work for personal illness, she said, causing them to lose even more of their benefits.

“It’s disappointing that union leadership decided to go outside the procedures of the contract to make public accusations,” Superintendent Theresa Battle said in a written statement Jan. 10.

District Communications Director Aaron Tinklenberg said in an email the contract clearly states paid leave time for personal illness will be prorated when an employee works less than a full year.

“In the absence of clear language for how the leave will be prorated, the district has a past practice that it has followed consistently,” he wrote.

On Jan. 8, the union’s executive board voted unanimously to seek binding arbitration on the issue, but it hasn’t been determined yet when arbitration will occur. Tinklenberg said the arbitrator will be asked to interpret the language of the contract.

“Through arbitration, we simply want a resolution that is fair to our employees and to the taxpayers of our community,” Battle wrote.

Drugge said she became aware of the issue in September and a grievance was filed in October.

Over 20 union members were harmed by the practice last school year, and it’s unknown how many have been impacted this year, she said.

The union’s 2017-2019 contract expired in June, but teachers continue working under that agreement until their new contract is adopted.

Contract negotiations are underway with several items still on the negotiating table. The first mediation session with union and district negotiators is scheduled for Feb. 12, and two regular negotiation session remain this month.


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