SAN FRANCISCO – An appellate court has ruled to deny unemployment benefits to paraprofessional and substitute teachers during the summer.
The United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), along with the union organization AFL-CIO and California Teachers Association filed the lawsuit against Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board on behalf paraprofessional and substitute teachers, who are part of a union and don’t work during the summer.
Both the paraprofessional and substitute teachers, under the lawsuit, had received reasonable assurance of employment for the following school year, which begins in the fall. The court ruled that summer school is not an academic term, denying unemployment benefits to both paraprofessional and substitute teachers as this doesn’t constitute loss of employment for time when they would be working.
“Over the course of the summer they (paraprofessional and substitute teachers) don’t work and are financially strapped over the summer,” Matthew Hardy, communications director at UESF, told the Northern California Record. “Several of our folks had been applying for unemployment over the summer and came to us for assistance to help them with that.”
While the plaintiffs lost the decision in court, they haven’t decided on the next plan of action, which may include an appeal to the courts.
“Right now where a point where we evaluating whether or not to appeal it,” said Hardy. “That decision has not been made yet.”
Denying unemployment benefits to paraprofessional and substitute teachers can be detrimental to their financial situation as they have no income coming in during the summer months when school is not in session.
“It potentially means that they’re not going to get benefits,” said Hardy. “Obviously for folks that are struggling to get by, this might cause a severe difficulty in their pocketbooks and their ability to pay their rent and get by.”
While no doubt disappointed with the ruling, UESF said many of these unemployment cases are being won by the teaching industry.
“It’s just a difference of opinion of the reading of the law,” said Hardy. “Because of these reasonable assurance letter that they get for next year, the folks in our organization working on this believe that the law is clear that is says that this qualifies them for unemployment. They’ve gone ahead and contested a lot of these cases and have won many of them. People have been successful in filing for unemployment. I would say it’s not 100 percent clear”
For the ruling, the appeals court said the language in the statute unambiguously provided that paraprofessional and substitute teachers are not eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer months, even with a letter of assurance for employment the following fall, regardless if the school district offers a summer session or not.