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Friday, February 20, 2015

Professionals employed by educational institutions entitled to employment insurance benefits for periods between two successive academic years absent a reasonable assurance of continued employment


Professionals employed by educational institutions entitled to employment insurance benefits for periods between two successive academic years absent a reasonable assurance of continued employment
2015 NY Slip Op 00926, Appellate Division, Third Department

Labor Law §590(10) precludes professionals employed by educational institutions from receiving employment insurance benefits for periods between two successive academic years when the employer has provided them with a reasonable assurance of continued employment. This decision by the Appellate Division, Third Department, explores applying the requirement of giving an educator “a reasonable assurance of continued employment.”

An individual was employed as an adjunct lecturer [AL] by the Borough of Manhattan Community College [MCC] since 1991. During the 2010-2011 academic year, AL worked a total of 150 hours, 105 hours in the 2010 fall semester and 45 hours in the 2011 spring semester. At the close of the 2010-2011 academic year, he received a letter from MCC offering to reappoint him to the same position for the 2011 fall and 2012 spring semesters, "subject to sufficiency of enrollment, financial availability and curriculum need."

Shortly after receiving this letter, MCC informed AL that he would be assigned to work 45 hours during the 2011 fall semester, but did not specify his assignment for the 2012 spring semester. AL applied for unemployment insurance benefits between the two academic years and was initially deemed ineligible on the basis that he had received a reasonable assurance of continued employment from the employer for the next academic year.

Following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge overruled this determination and found that AL was eligible to receive benefits because MCC did not provide him with a reasonable assurance of continued employment within the meaning of Labor Law §590(10). The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board affirmed the administrative law judge's ruling, and adhered to its decision upon reconsideration. MCC appealed the Board’s ruling.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s ruling, explaining that although Labor Law §590(10) precludes professionals employed by educational institutions from receiving unemployment insurance benefits for periods between two successive academic years when the employer has provided them with a reasonable assurance of continued employment, "A reasonable assurance ... has been interpreted as a representation by the employer that substantially the same economic terms and conditions will continue to apply to the extent that the claimant will receive at least 90% of the earnings received during the first academic period."

Whether a claimant received a reasonable assurance of employment is a question of fact for the Board to resolve and its findings in this regard will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence

AL, said the court, had worked 150 hours during the 2010-2011 academic year, but was only offered 45 hours during the 2011-2012 academic year, limited to the 2011 fall semester. Further, MCC did not specify any hours for the 2012 spring semester either in its reappointment letter or notice advising AL of his assignment, and AL was offered significantly fewer hours during the 2011 fall semester than he had worked during the 2010 fall semester.

Given that the economic terms of the offer of reappointment during the 2011-2012 academic year were substantially less favorable than AL’s earnings during the 2010-2011 academic year, the Appellate Division held that substantial evidence supported the Board's finding that MCC did not provide AL with a reasonable assurance of continued employment under Labor Law §590(10).

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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