SCHOOL LAW ADVISORY
Volume 30, No. 1
While summer break is cherished by many school employees and students, it poses a potential pitfall for schools as employers. When work is not available over breaks, schools could, if they fail to follow the right procedure, be on the hook for paying unemployment compensation benefits to certain employees, such as school-year employees (like secretaries and cafeteria workers) and substitute teachers who the school district plans to use again (called, for the purposes of this article, “covered employees”). Schools can avoid this problem by providing these covered employees with annual, written, reasonable assurance of continued employment after breaks, but they must make sure that they do so before the end of the academic year.
Maine’s unemployment compensation statute makes benefits available for employees, subject to certain conditions, during any week in which they are able and ready to work and their employer fails to provide them with work. These benefits are available only if the employee did not leave his or her position voluntarily, but was “discharged,” which Maine’s Department of Labor defines as “a termination of the employer-employee relationship which is initiated by the employer.”
This poses a problem for schools. There are many weeks throughout the year – like winter, spring, and summer breaks – during which covered employees may be ready and able to work, and the school may not have any work to offer them. Fortunately, the law provides an exception to the general rule that this would make an employee eligible for unemployment compensation. So long as the school issues each covered employee a written reasonable assurance of continued employment for when the school...To continue reading, visit https://schoollaw.com/school-law-advisory.
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