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CUNY Sued by Union Over Staff, Faculty Laid Off During Pandemic

July 2, 2020, 12:13 AM

The City University of New York violated its obligations under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act by laying off thousands of adjunct faculty and staff within weeks of being awarded $251 million in relief money, according to a new suit filed in New York federal court Wednesday.

When receiving funding from the CARES Act, CUNY was required to the greatest extent possible to pay its employees during the period of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, which represents nearly 30,000 members of the university instructional and professional staff told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The university announced its plans to lay off thousands of adjunct faculty and staff in May 2020, and at the time the complaint was filed it had fired 2,800 employees, representing around 20% of CUNY’s adjunct workforce, the suit alleged.

CUNY employs approximately 12,000 adjunct faculty members and nearly 2,000 adjunct professional staff, the lawsuit said.

Causes of Action: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; Breach of contract under state law.

Relief: preliminary injunction against adjunct layoffs; reinstatement of laid off adjunct employees; permanent injunction against laying off adjunct employees until the conclusion of the period of closures related to Covid-19; back-pay; costs and attorney fees.

Response: CUNY didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment.

Attorneys: Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP represents PSC.

The case is Prof’l Staff Congress/CUNY v. The City Univ. of New York, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-05060, complaint filed 7/1/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Carmen Castro-Pagan at