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Rumblings of a Class Action in Florida

by Anonymous in Florida

We are all well aware that more and more universities are hiring adjuncts rather than “faculty.” It could be argued that universities — perhaps especially public universities, perhaps especially public universities in Florida where the governor and the legislature continue to slash university budgets — are balancing their budgets on the backs of adjuncts.

Ok, I understood this when I signed on to teach. However, just this week I realized that my university (Florida International University)  had established a  “retirement” program for its adjuncts. Apparently Florida legislation allowed it to opt out of the Social Security system. So, although the equivalent of social security taxes are taken out of my sad salary, they are put into a fund. That fund will be distributed when I retire until what is in the fund runs out. In other words, instead of getting a check for x amount until I die, the $5000 currently in my “retirement” fund will be distributed until it runs out. According to Social Security, these six years I have worked any number of hours at this university count nothing towards my social security payments.

From what I can see on the spreadsheet, no other institutions (or very few) have adopted measures this draconian. To my layperson’s eyes, this looks like a class action suit waiting to happen. Might anyone know an attorney who perhaps could tell me if there is indeed grounds for a court challenge?

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14 thoughts on “Rumblings of a Class Action in Florida

  1. Hello Anonymous in Florida,

    We have a similar program in California. As members of CalSTRS,
    adjuncts are not allowed to collect social security for any years
    worked in the system. I am fairly certain about this. Also, as
    adjuncts I believe we get about $2000 for each year worked.
    Can any CA adjuncts correct me on this if I am wrong?

    I am interested in hearing more about why this is grounds for
    a class action lawsuit. I did hear today that our CalSTRS
    system is about 8 billion behind-meaning they would need
    to borrow that sum if all CalSTRS employees retired today.

  2. Add to this how most states do not recognize even contact hours to allow adjuncts to qualify for unemployment benefits and you have yet another sudden onset “WTF” heart attack. At least that’s what I experienced when reading the original post by Anonymous.

    I wonder if class action could be brought with punitive and compensatory damages should the university be shown to have illegally “switched” or “altered” the adjunct social security which is an entitlement not a privilege at the Federal level at least. (I think???)

    • My guess is that this issue of “entitlement” vs. “prviledge” would be the way to go. Then again, I’m not an attorney. It seems that we would need to talk to one specializing in labor laws

  3. Yes, I agree. Here in Ca. it is something that people seem to just accept, but perhaps
    it is different if it is a private university retirement fund.

  4. As I understand it this is also true of Indian River State College and Florida Atlantic University. I find it very disturbing for the mere fact that I support Social Security and would like to see my funds going there. Instead they go to tiaa cref, which has some troubling business practices including investments

  5. This is one of the things I have been talking about: if we all start putting our eggs in one basket, sort of speak, and come together–join up–might we not have something? I personally have never even thought about social security, as I knew I would never get unemployment, so I assumed social security was off limits as well. For God’s sake, I have to sign a contract every semester stipulating that I understand I have nothing, and this is just a matter of course for most universities. Mine is no different from all the rest. So we need to show a united front, and yes, we need to speak to our law school friends if we can.

  6. This is an info. sheet about the CA system. Apparently, if your pension is “low,”
    Social Security reduction can be “no more than half” your monthly benefit. I am
    not sure if Florida is different, or if the same regulations apply. The gist of what
    I read on a Google search was that you should still be able to claim SOME, if
    not all your Social Security benefits if your pension is “relatively low,” whatever
    that means. The PDF directs you to go to and look under
    the Information For, then the Government Employees drop-down list. Of course,
    if you work for a private university, you would look under a different category of
    employees. I can look it up and see what other options there are on the list.

  7. We have the same situation in Texas, TIAA-CREF is the retirement system in place, sigh. No Social Security benefits here either.

  8. It’s raining shoes! And I thought we were only supposed to be looking out for the other one to fall. I am naive when it comes to legal matters, but it seems something is very, very wrong with this situation. So now could we say that the government is overlooking / ignoring even more of what our institutions of HE are doing????????????????

  9. I thank everyone for responding, although I am more sickened now. Does anybody know an attorney who might be interested in a court challenge?

  10. I found a similar situation when I went to the Social Security offices to ask about my possible benefits. I found that since the Miami Dade College where I have worked the last years opted out of the SS system, I am not receving SS credits for my retirement. So, basically I am in the same situation that an illegal alien: the job I am doing does not accumulate credits for retirement and I do not have SS unemployement benefits,… but additionally I suffer a mandatory discount for TIAA-CREF,

    To opt out of the SS system is certainly good for the MDC and other public colleges and Universities, since they can say that adjuncts have a “Retirement” plan, and at the same time they save the 6 % that employers have to give to Social Security (remember that the 10 % discount for SS is composed of 4 % from the employee and 6 % from the employer).

    And since we receive a W-2 form at the end of the fiscal year, we can not report taxes as independent contractor, consequently we can not discount for commuting and other job expenses.

    Shame in the politicians and administrators that figured out and supported that wicked system!!!

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