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May 05, 2020

Determining an educator's eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits between two successive academic years

Labor Law §590 (10) provides that "[a] professional employed by an educational institution is precluded from receiving unemployment insurance benefits for the period between two successive academic years when he or she has received a reasonable assurance of continued employment." In Matter of Murphy [Copake-Taconic Cent. School Dist.-Commissioner of Labor], 17 AD3d 762, "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."

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that the claimant in this action [Claimant] was ineligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits because she had a reasonable assurance of continued employment. Claimant appealed.

The employer sent Claimant, a per diem substitute teacher, a letter in June informing her that it wished to retain her to teach during the next academic school year. Claimant applied for unemployment insurance benefits between the two academic years and the Department of Labor awarded her benefits upon finding that the employer did not offer her a reasonable assurance of continued employment.

Although an Administrative Law Judge affirmed the Department of Labor's determination, the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board] reversed this decision, ruling that the employer had provided Claimant with a reasonable assurance of continued employment and thus she was not entitled to receive the unemployment insurance benefits for which she had applied. Claimant appealed the Board's decision.

The Appellate Division sustained the Board's ruling, holding that the employer had clearly expressed its interest in having Claimant return as a per diem substitute teacher for the next academic year in the June letter that it sent to her. The employer indicated that it anticipated that "there will be as much work for Occasional Per Diem Substitute Teachers" during the following school year as was available to Claimant during the current academic year and the economic terms and conditions would be substantially the same next academic year as the academic year then ending and requested that she acknowledge receipt of the letter.

The court opined that the letter, together with the testimony concerning the per diem rate of pay for the following academic year and number of potential work days available, provides substantial evidence supporting the Board's finding that the employer provided claimant with a reasonable assurance of continued employment and said it found no reason to disturb the Board's decision.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_02335.htm

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