The suspension of University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities and post-district competitions because of the pandemic is causing districts to wonder what to do about stipends.
During the spring of 2020, when school campuses were closed and UIL competition was suspended, most school districts continued to pay annual stipends. However, because of the uncertainty of the future of extracurricular activities, districts are hesitant to assign stipends for the 2020–2021 school year and wonder how they should proceed.
Unfortunately, it is unknown what sport seasons or fine arts competitions will look like in the fall and beyond. Activities may resume and continue as they have in the past, or they may be completely different. Regardless, most school districts already have issued contracts, made supplemental duty assignments, and are in the process of adopting budgets.
Assignment of duties
Districts employ coaches in two ways—by assigning supplemental duties at will or employing individuals on a dual-assignment contract. Districts may use a combination of both and apply them differently for different assignments. A detailed discussion of supplemental duty assignments is included in the HR Library topic Employment Contracts.
Supplemental duty assignment
When an individual is assigned an additional duty at will, the supplemental duty is not part of a contract and neither is the associated pay. A model assignment of supplemental duties (i.e., an at-will agreement) is included in the HR Library. The use of this form ensures the delineation between a dual-assignment position and a supplemental duty assignment. The TASB model form and model contracts are carefully constructed to address changes in law and interpretation in commissioner decisions. Altering the forms without input from local counsel could impact the enforceability of the agreement.
A dual-assignment contract applies statutory protections to both positions (e.g., teacher and coach) and pay associated with both positions is tied to the contract. Any changes to the terms of the contract must comply with Texas Education Code Chapter 21 requirements.
Districts wanting to move an individual from a dual-assignment contract to a supplemental duty assignment must plan ahead. An employee is entitled to the dual-assignment contract until the employee resigns or the district ends his or her contract. However, if an employee voluntarily resigns a dual-assignment contract, the district may employ the person on a single-assignment contract (e.g., teacher) and utilize a supplemental duty assignment for the extra duty. Because of this, a phased-in approach using an at-will agreement for new hires and grandfathering those individuals already on a dual-assignment contract, may be the easiest approach.
A dual-assignment contract provides little flexibility for stopping payment for assignments. If notice is not provided prior to the penalty-free resignation deadline, the only options for discontinuation include termination, nonrenewal, or resignation of the contract.
Supplemental duty assignments are at-will and do not provide property rights to continuation. At any time the employee may resign or the district may terminate the supplemental duty and the pay associated with the supplemental duty. Pay may be prorated if an employee does not complete the assignment. If a duty is partially completed, calculating prorated payment may present challenges. Conducting meetings, practices, and other training should be considered when determining how much is owed. Reduction of pay associated with a supplemental duty after the penalty-free resignation date could lead to a legal challenge, and a district should seek advice of local counsel.
If you assign duties at will and have not used written agreements in the past, it is advisable to utilize supplemental duty assignments for the 2020–2021 school year.
Cancelling a stipend for a supplemental duty assignment should be handled with caution. The decision to not pay a stipend may help the district’s financial outlook but may negatively impact the district’s ability to recruit and retain quality staff for these positions in the future.
The stipend is reflective of an individual’s commitment to the sport or activity before, during, and after the actual competition or event. Remember, even while school facilities are closed, coaches, band directors, and other sponsors have continued their work with students to prepare them for future opportunities.
There is a potential for a legal challenge any time a district reduces an employee’s pay. If the district desires to proceed with a reduction of a stipend amount, it should work with local counsel to ensure that it follows proper procedures. Costs to defend a legal challenge could easily erode savings from reduction of extra duty stipends.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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