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August 03, 2010

Individual ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits if compensation exceeds the highest benefit rate applicable during relevant “effective days”

Individual ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits if compensation exceeds the highest benefit rate applicable during relevant “effective days”
Robinson v Commissioner of Labor, 2010 NY Slip Op 06272, decided on July 29, 2010, Appellate Division, Third Department

A claimant for unemployment insurance benefits is eligible to be paid for an accumulation of "effective days" of unemployment, provided that no effective days may be accumulated in any week in which he or she is paid compensation exceeding the highest benefit rate applicable.

Jonathon Robinson applied for unemployment insurance benefits but his claim was rejected by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board based on its finding that Robinson received an average weekly wage "far above the maximum weekly benefit rate of $405" and, as a result, “he did not accumulate effective days for those weeks.”

Robinson had been employed as a lecturer at Cornell University for the summer sessions in 2006 and 2007, teaching a class two days per week. He received a flat fee of $9,360 for the summer 2006 session, representing an average weekly wage of $1,560, and a flat fee of $9,780 for the summer 2007 session, representing an average weekly wage of $1,630.

Paid on a semimonthly basis, Robinson applied for unemployment benefits for those weeks in which he did not receive a paycheck, certifying that he had earned less than the maximum weekly benefit rate of $405.

Ultimately it was determined that Robinson was ineligible to receive benefits on the basis that he earned over the statutory limitation for those weeks for which he had claimed entitlement to benefits. He was charged with a recoverable total overpayment of $1,504.75 and, in addition, his right to receive future benefits by 64 effective days on the basis that he had made willful false statements to obtain benefits.

Robinson appealed these determinations by the Board.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board’s decision, commenting that “A claimant is eligible to be paid for an accumulation of ‘effective days" of unemployment, provided that no effective days may be accumulated in any week in which a claimant is paid compensation exceeding the highest benefit rate applicable’ … Here, the record reflects, and claimant admits, that he received an average weekly wage far above the maximum weekly benefit rate of $405 and, therefore, the determination by the Board that he did not accumulate effective days for those weeks is supported by substantial evidence and has a reasonable basis in law.”

As to the Board's finding that Robinson “made willful misrepresentations to obtain benefits,” the Appellate Division concluded that the Board’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.

The decisions reports that Robinson had conceded that he had received and read the unemployment insurance benefits handbook. Accordingly, said the court, the Board could reasonably find that, regardless of his communications with representatives of the Department of Labor, the language in the handbook addressing a claimant's ineligibility for benefits was clear and unambiguous.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_06272.htm

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