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September 10, 2010

Eligibility for unemployment insurance between school years depends on the absence of an “assurance of reemployment”

Eligibility for unemployment insurance between school years depends on the absence of an “assurance of reemployment”
Aljandari v Buffalo Bd. of Education, App. Div., 245 A.D.2d 647
[Decided with Smith v Buffalo Board of Education]

Often temporary teachers seek unemployment insurance benefits during a school district’s summer recess. Key to their eligibility is the absence of any assurance of “next semester” employment by the District.

In the Aljandari case the Appellate Division sustained a determination by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board that Aljandari and other “totally unemployed” teachers were entitled to unemployment insurance benefits during the school’s 1995 summer recess.

Although Aljandari and the others were covered by a Taylor Law agreement between the School District and the union, the Appellate Division found that the agreement did not specifically define “the duration of their employment.”

Their employment, said the Court, was established by a letter of employment sent to these temporary teachers at the beginning of the academic year advising them that their appointment was for as long as their services were needed “but in no case beyond the [current] school” and that their assignment was strictly temporary.

This clear language did not provide the teachers with any assurance of reemployment following the summer recess period. The Court sustained the Board’s ruling that the teachers were eligible for unemployment insurance benefits for the period of their summer unemployment.

The Appellate Division said that the fact that some of the teachers “were eligible for fringe benefits during the summer and elected to have their salary prorated to extend during this time” did not “compel the conclusion” that they were not totally unemployed during the summer.

In effect, the Court ruled that it was the term of the teacher’s “professional obligation” rather than his or her payroll mode [21 pay periods or 26 pay periods] that was the critical element.

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