The Right to Unemployment Benefits
Here's one hard-earned right part-time faculty can exercise two or three times a year, and yet few of us do: The right to draw unemployment pay between semesters and during the summer break (if we ever take a summer break!) is one of the few advantages of being employed as part-time, temporary instructors with no guarantee of "rehire." For even if we have signed a work offer to teach the following semester, including summer school, we can still collect unemployment during those breaks, since fluctuating enrollment and funding can nullify that work agreement at any time and leave us jobless.
In 1989, an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local in San Francisco won an important victory in the California Court of Appeal. In its precedent-setting decision, the Court affirmed the union's view that part-time faculty do not have "reasonable assurance" of assignment rights in the next school term and therefore should not be ineligible for unemployment benefits during periods of lay-off. Since the decision, now known officially as the Cervisi Decision, part-time faculty around the state who have no job security, whose assignments are contingent upon adequate funding, enrollment, and program changes, should be eligible for benefits. Part-time faculty who are unemployed after the end of any semester or summer session can therefore apply for and receive benefits provided they are otherwise eligible for benefits. Unemployment benefits are not a "hand-out" but a right to compensation for the very real lack of job security with the district. Take advantage of this hard-won right! Apply for unemployment during your breaks!
How Do You Apply For Unemployment Benefits?
On the first day of unemployment, call the Employment Development Department (EDD) office, 1-800-300-5616 for recorded information or go directly to the website and apply online via www.edd.ca.gov. The application can also be printed out and mailed in. Don't delay, as payments only go back to the first day of application. There is, however, a one-week unpaid waiting period for each benefit year, which begins with the date of filing for benefits and ends one calendar year later. Currently, the maximum payment per week is $450.
On the form check, "laid off/lack of work" as the reason for being unemployed and write in "non-contract employee, work agreement ended." If you have a work offer for the next term, you should so indicate, but where it asks if you have assurance of employment mark "no".
If you have a telephone interview, be sure to emphasize that your future employment is dependent upon 1) enrollment, 2) funding, and 3) program changes, and 4) that the Cervisi Decision of 1989 set a judicial precedent for community college part-time faculty to receive unemployment benefits. If it is summer and you have no work offer for summer, be sure to point out that you are not working during the current term. You are a non-contract employee. Your work offer states: "I understand my employment will terminate with the district effective on the last day of service as described above, (that would be the date of your last final), or upon the date of cancellation of the assignment due to insufficient enrollment or any other reason." You can read that to the interviewer, if (s)he seems to have a concern about your claim.
After your phone interview or submittal of your online application, you will be required to fill out forms every two weeks certifying that you are still unemployed. These can be filled out online or will be mailed to your home.
How To Appeal If Your Request For Benefits Is Denied
Despite the favorable appellate court decision, EDD has been slow to get the message. Some part-timers are still being found ineligible for benefits on the basis that they have "reasonable assurance" of assignment for the upcoming semester. However, given the appellate court decision, we know that denials can be, and have been, reversed upon appeal.
If your application is denied, you should file an appeal after you have received the denial in writing. Ordinary stationery is acceptable. Include your social security number on all correspondence. The following is an example of an appeal:
I wish to appeal the determination to deny benefits based on the Cervisi Decision (Cervisi v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board-208 Cal. App. 3d 635; Cal. Rptr. 142 Feb. 1989) and the following grounds: I am a temporary hourly employee laid off because of lack of work. When I am employed, I am paid on an hourly basis. Any assignment I receive is contingent on funding, enrollment, and program changes. Consequently, as a temporary employee without an actual or implied contract, I do not have reasonable assurance of continued employment and am eligible for unemployment benefits.
It is also recommended that you send a copy of the Cervisi Decision with your appeal. There is a deadline for filing the appeal: you must file within 20 calendar days after the mailing date of the denial notice.
To be eligible for benefits if your appeal is won, you must continue to submit forms from the EDD for each two-week period that you are unemployed.
If you have questions about unemployment benefits or the appeal process,contact the union office at 805 987-1188. Also, you may find out more about unemployment benefits on the EDD web page: www.edd.ca.gov