UWT wants student employees to be aware of their rights
Student workers are protected by Title IX, Washington state labor laws, and university laws and policies. As an institution that receives federal financial assistance, all three UW campuses must abide by Title IX of the Education Amendment, which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The state and university have additional policies like minimum wage requirements, the Paid Sick and Safe Ordinance, and reporting procedures for workplace problems and concerns.
Deanna Blanchfield, UW Tacoma’s training and development manager, wants students to recognize that they are more than “just a student employee.”
“Students need to realize how important they are,” Blanchfield said. “They are a third of the work force on campus, including staff and faculty, and are a very integral part of the day-to-day operation of this university.”
Being an employee on the UWT campus comes with rights.
“I don’t want students to say ‘we are just student employees,’” Blanchfield said. “You have all the same rights as any employee. You have the same rights under state and federal law. You have the right to organize. You have the right to come to work in a safe environment free of harassment and discrimination. You have the right to minimum age. In the Seattle and Tacoma area, you have the right to sick leave.”
While the specificities of what is and isn’t covered can seem daunting, Blanchfield is helping to assist students in understanding their rights — something that had sometimes been overlooked in the past.
“As part of regular orientation and training, ethics, safe campus and sexual harassment [training] are required of all staff at the UW, including students,” Blanchfield said. “We had just never made sure that we were getting that message out [so] that students knew that.”
This quarter, Blanchfield is making her way through every department in the university to provide workshops and make sure they have their own training. She plans to do the same every quarter to help ensure that every employee is receiving the necessary information.
“I need to do this every quarter,” Blanchfield said. “I have to catch new employees because they have right to know all of things that you are eligible for and protected by university policy and procedures, and state and federal laws.”
While many student workers can attend scheduled trainings with Blanchfield for their departments, some students cannot. For student worker Kylund Prior — who works in the School of Education — this was the case.
“The School of Education sent out an email that there was a workshop available, but I wasn’t able to attend,” Prior said. “There were a few emails sent out to the student workers about additional websites and people to contact. I might have been more interested in the info that I missed [from the workshop] if I was in a full-time, long-term position, but I’m glad to know the information is there if someone needs it.”
For students unable to attend trainings, there is a solution. In the past, student employees have been able to access workshop information by utilizing the UW Tacoma’s professional development website: tacoma.uw.edu/ hr-professional-development/welcome-professional-development where they can sig-up for an on-campus workshop that fits their schedule and can access online learning materials.
“Student workers have always been able to attend any of the free professional development workshops offered each quarter to staff and faculty, they just cannot always participate due to class schedules or workloads,” Blanchfield said. “But, there are several online workshops already on our ProDev website that they have access to. Going forward, we are also going to create an online version with video, so new student employee hires any time during the year can access the info during their new hire orientation period.”
To help further ensure that student employees are informed and protected, Blanchfield is making sure that all supervisors are also up to speed on how to effectively support students.
“[I talk with supervisors] about anything from performance reviews to communication styles to generational differences,” Blanchfield said. “I also teach them about the compliance. What is our role as supervisors and managers? Here are the laws that protect employees and students. It’s a compliance awareness that all employees and supervisors all have to have.”
For more information, visit UW’s main human resources website:
To address your individual student employee needs, follow up with a UWT HR staff member via email through the human resource directory: