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March 07, 2023

Eligibility of a school district employee for unemployment insurance benefits for the period between two successive academic years

With respect to eligibility of employees of a school district for unemployment insurance benefits between "two successive academic years, the Appellate Division, citing Labor Law §590(1), said "[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." Further, said the court, "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."

A school bus driver [Claimant] had worked for the employer [School District] for over 30 years. Starting March 16, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Claimant was not required to work but continued to receive her regular salary for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, ending on June 19, 2020. On June 3, 2020, Claimant received a letter from the School District informing her that it wished to retain her in the same position during the 2020-2021 school year, which she signed and returned to the School District. 

Despite this letter, prior to the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Claimant filed claims for unemployment insurance benefits. From June 21, 2020 until August 23, 2020, Claimant received unemployment insurance benefits, as well as federal pandemic unemployment compensation and lost wage assistance pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020 [the CARES Act]. 

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board [Board], among other things, sustained the initial determination finding that Claimant was not totally unemployed during the week ending June 21, 2020 and that she was ineligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance [PUA] benefits.* Claimant appealed the Board's determination.

The Appellate Division noted that, considering the letter assuring Claimant of the continued applicability of the collective bargaining agreement as well as the testimony concerning Claimant's seniority and the continued need for busing, there was substantial evidence supporting the Board's finding that the School District provided Claimant with a reasonable assurance of continued employment.

Addressing Claimant's eligibility for PUA benefits for the period between academic terms outside of her contract, the Appellate Division opined "substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that Claimant was ineligible for such benefits."

* Citing Matter of Barnett [Broome County Community Coll.—Commissioner of Labor], 182 AD3d 763, the Appellate Division observed that factual issues are for the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board to determine and, as such, its decision will be upheld if supported by substantial evidence.

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

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