Court decision disappoints substitute teacher

LIHUE — John Hoff does not mince words when sharing his opinion on a recent Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that thousands of substitute and part-time teachers were not entitled to back wages they had fought for.

“We got screwed,” he said. “The subs are getting cheated again.”

Hoff was a substitute teacher on Kauai for about 15 years, from 2000 to 2015.

“I taught in every public school on this island,” he said.

The Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously ruled that certain substitute teachers and part-time teachers who had worked for the State of Hawaii at relevant times between 2000 and 2012 were not entitled to back wages or interest for alleged underpayments by the state.

The total amount of back wages and interest on back wages allegedly owed by the state to more than 28,000 substitute and part-time teachers in two class action suits had totaled more than $56 million. The decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court closes more than a decade of litigation and ends the claims raised by the class action plaintiffs.

The state previously paid more than $14 million in back wages to substitute teachers. The state believed, however, that it had paid part-time teachers everything they were owed, according to a press release.

The state also denied that it owed interest on the back wages already paid.

“The state and DOE appreciate the part-time teachers important contribution to the education of our youth. They can and should be paid for that contribution,” said Attorney General Doug Chin. “But the state also has a duty to all citizens to ensure that part-time teachers are not paid more than they are owed.”

Hoff said he was owed about $12,000. He eventually received about $3,000 after attorney’s fees and taxes. He had hoped for more and said substitute teachers needed the money.

“There are a lot of single mothers out their working, raising kids, and they’re not getting their back pay,” he said.

“Just pick on the little guy,” he added. “Don’t pick on the big guy.”

Hoff, who still is a certified substitute teacher in Hawaii, did not teach last year.

“I didn’t get any calls,” he said.

If he did, he would be glad to return, despite losing the fight for back wages.

“I enjoy it,” Hoff said.

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