California Teachers Can’t Collect Unemployment for Summer Break

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Educators in California aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer recess if they are provided “reasonable assurance” of employment in the next academic year, according to a state appeals court.

The United Educators of San Francisco asked the court to find that 26 substitute teachers and paraprofessionals were improperly denied unemployment benefits during the summer of 2011.

However, the workers had each received a letter from the San Francisco Unified School District providing reasonable assurance of employment for the 2011-12 school year, the court noted.

Schools Should Provide Clear Communication

The state unemployment insurance code provides that unemployment benefits are not payable for the period between academic years or terms “if there is a contract or a reasonable assurance that the individual will perform services” in the following academic term.

This language means public school employees aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits if they worked in the spring and have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment in the fall, according to the court.

This still holds true even if a school offers summer classroom sessions and summer employment opportunities to a limited number of workers, the court stated.

“Public school administrators should make every effort to ensure that they are communicating clearly and precisely the likelihood of a position being available to their substitute teachers and paraprofessional employees in their districts,” said Kasia Nowak, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in San Francisco.

Employees Should Plan for Wage Loss

The court said it was “not unsympathetic” to the financial loss incurred by some public school employees who don’t receive wages between terms.

“However, in effect what the claimants in this case are requesting is that the government should provide them with a full year‘s income because they have agreed to work and be paid for only 41 weeks of each year,” it said.

School employees know in advance that they will have uncompensated periods during the year and can therefore plan for the loss of wages.

The ruling is consistent with decisions in other states, including New York, Oregon and Illinois, which have found that summer school sessions aren’t included in the academic year.

The decision is United Educators of San Francisco AFT/CFT v. Cal. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., Cal. Ct. App., Nos. A142858 and A143428 (June 6).

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM-SCP, J.D., is the senior legal editor for SHRM. 

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