Layoffs — Know Your Rights
FAQ for classified employees and K-12 certificated employees
Though the CFT works in collaboration with the Education Coalition fight to ensure public schools and colleges have enough funding, some members may still face the possibility of layoffs. CFT has prepared these answers to common questions about layoffs for K-12 certificated employees and classified employees.
Know the basics about the layoff process for classified employees and K-12 certificated employees and what to do if you receive a layoff notice.
What is a layoff?
A layoff in California public education is the no-fault employment termination of a probationary or permanent faculty member, or a classified employee. The least senior person in an eliminated position must be the first to be laid off. Temporary faculty are not “laid-off;” instead they are released from employment with no right to a hearing.
Who decides which positions will be cut?
The governing board of the school district has the authority to pass a resolution that specifies the district services to be eliminated or reduced, as well as the number and types of positions to be cut, based on recommendations of the district administration. The administration must follow the board’s resolution in issuing layoff notices.
What do I do if I get a layoff notice?
- Make sure your union has your current mailing address, phone numbers, and non-work email address.
- Know whom to contact in your local union with questions and concerns.
- Attend informational union meetings.
- Read everything carefully you receive from your union and your district.
- Copy your union on everything you submit to your district.
- Keep copies of everything you submit to your district.
- If you are a K-12 certificated employee, review your credentials on file with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and with your district to be sure they are up to date.
- The union may track paperwork for all affected members, so the local is aware of requests for hearings and possible challenges, but it remains your responsibility to complete the paperwork within the required timelines and submit it, whether to the district or the union. (A district may agree to accept paperwork submitted by the union on behalf of all affected members who have authorized the union to represent them in proceedings; check with your AFT local union.)
Where can I go for help?
Contact your AFT local union president and/or your CFT Field Representative for more information.
- Update, December 15, 2021: In the last legislative session, CFT helped win layoff notice for classified employees that is equal to certificated employees. Learn more about union-sponsored AB 438 and watch this space for updated information!
Did you get a layoff notice? Following are answers to common questions about the classified layoff process as specified in the California Education Code.
What are the reasons for which classified employees can be laid off?
Under the Education Code, there are four reasons that classified employees can be laid off.
- Expiration of a specially funded program
- Bona fide reduction of a service
- Bona fide elimination of a service
- Lack of funds and actual financial inability to pay salaries of classified employees
How far in advance must the employer issue a layoff notice to a classified employee?
Under normal circumstances, the employer is required to give written notice at least 60 days before the effective date of layoff. However, when the layoff takes place because the employer has an “actual and existing” financial inability to pay employees’ salaries, or due to some cause that was not foreseeable or preventable, the employer does not need to give any definite amount of advanced notice of the layoff.
How far in advance must the employer notice classified employees who work in specially funded programs?
For employees working in specially funded programs that end June 30, notice of layoff must be given by April 29. If the program ends at another time, notice must be given at least 60 days before the date of layoff. However, when the layoff takes place because the employer has an “actual and existing” financial inability to pay employees’ salaries, or due to some cause that was not foreseeable or preventable, the employer does not need to give any definite amount of advanced notice of the layoff.
What is the order of layoff?
Employees laid off first are those with the shortest length of service in their current class, plus higher classes in which the employee has served as a probationary or permanent employee.
How is length of service defined?
Length of service (as defined after July 1, 1971) means all probationary or permanent hours worked in paid status. Length of service includes work time, holidays, recess or other periods when the school or college is closed. Length of service does not include overtime work.
However, your local contract may improve upon the Education Code. It may define the length of service as your hire date. It may also include credit for unpaid sick leave or unpaid Workers’ Compensation leave. Read your local collective bargaining contract and contact your AFT local union representative with questions.
How do I retain my seniority?
If a permanent classified employee resigns from the district, and the district rehires the employee within 39 months into a former classification or a lower classification in which the employee has had permanent status, there will be no break in service for determining length of service or benefits such as vacation accrual.
What is the order of re-employment?
The classified employees who are rehired first are those with the longest length of service in the class from which they were laid off, plus higher classes in which they have served.
How long am I eligible for re-employment?
You are eligible for reemployment for 39 months. If you took a voluntary demotion or voluntary reduction in assigned time instead of layoff, you have an additional 24 months to get back to full hours and your former classification. Classified employees may also take promotional exams during the 39-month reemployment period. If you retired instead of being laid off, you will be placed on the re-employment list.
Can my employer force me to take a reduction of hours instead of a layoff?
Reducing hours is not the employer’s prerogative. Reductions in hours must be negotiated with the union.
Can I collect unemployment if I am laid off?
Yes, laid off classified employees may be able to collect unemployment. Apply for unemployment the day after your last day of work by going to the Employment Development Department website. If EDD denies your claim, contact your AFT local union to file a timely appeal. If you receive payments from the EDD, be sure to report any and all other earnings. You are required to look for work, but not outside your field of expertise or farther than 25 miles from your home. Save all documents related to your claim, such as letters from your district and records of contacts made with potential employers.
What will happen to my health benefits if I am laid off?
If you get health benefits from the district and you lose your assignment, you are now entitled to 18 months of continued COBRA coverage. However, you will have to pay the premiums yourself.
Did you get a layoff notice? This section answers common questions about the layoff process for certificated employees in TK-12 schools as specified in the California Education Code.
What does it mean if I got a layoff notice?
This means that you may be laid off for the following school year. A K-12 district is legally required to give certificated employees notice of possible layoff by March 15. In certain circumstances, a K-12 district may also give certificated employees notice of possible layoff after the budget is enacted, in late June or early July.
Can permanent status teachers receive layoff notices?
Yes, if the district is reducing the size of its workforce, even permanent teachers may be laid off. Layoffs must occur in a strict order based on seniority and credentialing according to state law.
Can probationary employees be let go?
Probationary employees can be released without a reason no later than March 15 of their second year of probationary employment. But if they are being let go because the district is reducing services in general, they must be given layoff notices and rights to the layoff process instead.
What happens to temporary teachers if there are layoffs?
Temporary teachers do not have due process rights, and can be released from their temporary assignments without receiving a layoff notice or hearing. But it’s important to know if you are properly classified as a temporary employee because districts often get it wrong. (If you received a notice and don’t file a Request for Hearing, you will lose the right to challenge any mistakes that may have been made that might save your job.) Whether you are temporary depends on the job you do, not on your credential or intern status. In general, if you are filling in for a teacher on leave somewhere in the district, you are a temporary employee.
Will I be laid off if there are too many teachers at my site?
Layoff is based on your credential and seniority in the district as a whole. After layoffs, people may be reassigned to other sites.
Does the type of credential I hold make a difference?
It might. It depends on the particular kinds of services the governing board decides to reduce and the credential and experience categories it decides to “skip” when it issues layoff notices.
What happens after the notice?
You must give the district a written request for a hearing within seven (7) calendar days of receiving the layoff notice. If you don’t file the request on time, you lose the right to challenge your layoff, even if the district made mistakes about your seniority date and qualifications. Hearings will be held to establish the correct order of seniority and to resolve disputed issues. The hearing officer’s decision is a recommendation to the school board. The district may then issue a final layoff notice by May 15 for the following school year. If the layoff process occurs over the summer, the district must issue its final layoff notices by August 15 for the upcoming school year.
When will I know for sure whether or not I am being laid off?
For layoffs that occur during the spring, your district must give you final notice by May 15. However, people are often brought back after the May 15 date once the district’s finances are better understood. For layoffs that occur over the summer, your district must give you a final notice by August 15.
When and where are the hearings?
Layoff hearings will be held in your district. They usually occur sometime between March 20 and May 7 during the spring, and over the summer may occur any time in July or early August. You should plan to attend your layoff hearing because you may have to testify.
How can I find support during this difficult time?
Your AFT local union and your colleagues are the best resources. Some districts may offer employees free confidential services through an Employee Assistance Program.
Can I collect unemployment?
Yes. Apply for unemployment the day after your last day of work by going to the website of the Employment Development Department.
What will happen to my health benefits if I am laid off?
If you get health benefits from the district and you lose your assignment, you are entitled to 18 months of continued COBRA coverage. However, you will have to pay the premiums yourself.
Do I have priority rehire rights?
Yes, permanent employees have the right to be rehired in order of seniority, if at any time within 39 months (or, 24 months for probationary teachers), the number of employees is increased or the service that was discontinued leading to your layoff is re-established. To teach a subject you have not previously taught, and for which you do not have a credential or in which you did not major, you must pass a subject matter competency test in the appropriate subject. The district may only refuse to rehire in seniority order if it demonstrates a specific need for special training and experience held by a more junior employee, and which a more senior employee does not possess.
Can I waive my rehire rights?
Permanent teachers can waive their rehire rights for up to a year (meaning you can ask to be passed over if the district makes rehire offers) without losing the right to subsequent offers of rehire.
Do I have a priority right to substitute?
Teachers have a right to temporary and substitute positions, in order of seniority, while waiting to be rehired into a permanent position. Permanent teachers who teach 21 days or more in a 60 day period shall be paid no less than if they had been reappointed to a permanent position.
Is my period of layoff considered a break in service?
If you are rehired, the period of layoff will not be considered a break in service, but neither shall it count towards CalSTRS or CalPERS credit.
Can I transfer my accrued sick leave if I get a job in another California school district?
These timelines apply only to K-12 probationary and permanent certificated employees.
What is the timeline for summer layoffs?
Five (5) days after the governor signs the state Budget Act
- Summer layoffs can be initiated as soon as five (5) days after the governor signs the state Budget Act. The governor will sign the budget bill anytime between June 15 and July 1. The district has the right to adopt the timeline for when the layoff notices are issued and when the hearing will occur.
August 15 final decision
- The final decision is required no later than August 15.
What is the “normal” timeline for layoffs
March 15 or earlier (or following Monday if the 15th falls on weekend)
- The probationary or permanent employee must be given (in person or by certified mail) a written notice that his/her services will not be needed for the following school year.
Seven (7) calendar days after service of layoff notice
- The employee who received a layoff notice must submit to the district a written request for a layoff hearing.
At least fifteen (15) days before layoff hearing
- District will serve an “Accusation” on all who have requested a hearing. If no accusation is issued by the district, the case is over and the person still has their job.
Within five (5) days after service of accusation
- The employee must file a Notice of Defense with the district.
Within fifteen (15) days of service of accusation
- The employee must submit to the district a Request for Discovery in preparation for the layoff hearing.
Before May 7 (unless the employee agrees to a later date)
- A layoff hearing will be held by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who works for the California Office of Administrative Hearings.
By May 7 (unless the employee agrees to a later date)
- The ALJ will give the district and the employee a recommended decision.
Before May 15
- The school board must review the ALJ’s recommended decision and decide whether to adjust layoffs accordingly.
By May 15
- Final notices of layoff must be given to the employee. If there is no final layoff notice served, the employee still has a job the following year.