Adjunct Faculty: You May Be Eligible for Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are not a form of welfare. They are an earned benefit for which you, as adjunct faculty, have the right to apply between terms. Even if you have been offered an assignment for the following term, you may still be eligible for UI benefits from the date of your last final exam up to the date of your first class in the subsequent term.
Why are adjunct instructors eligible for unemployment benefits?
According to a 1989 court ruling, Cervisi et al v. Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, part-time community college instructors do NOT have "reasonable assurance" of being employed by the school employer in a succeeding school term because of the contingent nature of their employment. Specifically, the Superior Court concluded that "under the statute, an assignment that is contingent on enrollment, funding or program changes is not 'reasonable assurance' of employment." Thus, you may be entitled to UI benefits between fall and spring semesters, between spring semesters and summer sessions, and between summer sessions and fall semesters. You may also be entitled to UI benefits between spring and fall if you requested but were not offered a summer assignment or if your class is cancelled.
In order to qualify, you must meet specific eligibility requirements, including total or partial unemployment. (Note: if you are also employed by a school district in a classified position, some restrictions may apply.) You are expected and required to actively seek employment that is in your field and in your area of residence. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) may ask you to post a resume online or attend a job-search training session.
How do I file for benefits?
In order to file a claim for UI benefits, you will need to complete and submit an application to EDD. This can be accomplished in several ways: by telephone, by fax, online, or by mail. (See "How to File with EDD" and "Internet Is the Best Way to Contact EDD.") Once you have submitted an application, you should allow ten days for processing.
It can be difficult to reach EDD by phone, so our advice is to not wait until the last minute and to be patient. You may need to dial the number repeatedly before even getting in the queue to speak with a representative. In certain instances one cannot file online—for example, if you worked in another state in the past 12 months or are an owner of a business, regardless of whether the business is currently active or not.
In urgent cases, you can use one of the telephones at an EDD office, and you can also request a staff member's help in placing the phone call. (The EDD office at 606 Healdsburg Avenue in Santa Rosa is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Again, given that EDD is stretched beyond its resources, patience is the key to surviving this process. Bring a book!
What happens next?
After you file for UI benefits, EDD will normally send you a letter telling you the date and approximate time that an EDD representative will call you for a phone interview, in order to ask you some clarifying questions. (See "What do I say in my telephone interview?") DO NOT MISS THIS PHONE CALL or you may be automatically denied benefits. If for some reason you cannot make the phone interview, you must call the general EDD phone number before your scheduled phone interview. After answering your phone call, an EDD representative will transfer you to the phone interviewer. You can then explain why you will not be able to take the phone call from EDD at the appointed time.
Once a claim is established, it remains active for one year. The first time you receive a benefit, you will be subject to a one-week waiting period, for which you will not receive benefits. (This one-week, unpaid waiting period applies to each claim, which is for a one-year period. The unpaid waiting period will not apply to claims reopened within the one-year period.) The EDD will mail you materials, including a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award and a Benefits Handbook.
How much will I receive?
The effective date of your claim determines your "base period" and the amount of your benefits. In essence, your benefits will be based on the amount of your earnings during the highest of four quarters within a one-year base period that ends approximately six months prior to the date of your claim. The weekly benefit amounts range from $40 to $450, depending upon earnings. You may view the current Benefit Table and detailed information that will help you determine your base period and your benefits on the EDD website at www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are enrolled in the Adjunct Medical Benefits Program and participate in the District's IRC 125 "Cafeteria" Plan, you should be aware that both your portion (50 percent) of the SRJC group medical plan premiums and any additional pre-tax contributions you set aside for out-of-pocket health care expenses MAY REDUCE the amount of unemployment benefits that you will receive. Click here to see the EDD webpage that provides specific information regarding the types of earnings excluded from Unemployment Insurance "base period wage credits" (scroll down to Section C.2).
Once I start receiving benefits, do I have to fill out any forms?
The EDD pays UI benefits after they receive a completed and signed Continued Claim Form, which they will send you within 10 days of processing your application. If, after reviewing your application and claim form, the EDD determines that you are eligible for benefits, the EDD will issue a payment to you along with another Continued Claim Form. You'll need to submit a claim form every two weeks, reporting the date you last worked and any gross (before-tax) wages you earned in the week you worked, regardless of when you received your paycheck.
I’ve heard that EDD is now issuing debit cards instead of checks. Is that true?
Yes, within the last year, there's been a change in the way that the EDD issues payments. In 2011, the EDD completed the transition from paper to plastic. Instead of delivering Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit payments by check, EDD is now issuing the EDD Debit CardSM. Once you have received your card, you will have the option for a direct deposit transfer. For more information about the EDD Debit CardSM, click here.
Do I have to pay income taxes on the benefits?
UI benefits are subject to federal—but not state—income tax. You may voluntarily request that EDD withhold 10% of your weekly benefits for federal taxation of UI benefits. You will receive a form 1099G at the end of the year. Be prepared to claim the benefits as income and to pay federal taxes on that income.
What happens if my benefits run out before I return to work?
During periods of high unemployment, Congress or the State legislature may grant extensions of additional benefits. Further information about federal extensions of California's UI benefits is available at www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Federal_Unemployment_Insurance_Extensions.htm. Information about any available State extensions of UI benefits is posted at www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Types_of_Claims.htm.
What if my claim is denied?
Occasionally, the EDD staff is not familiar with the regulations pertaining to adjunct faculty, whose unemployment claims may be denied. Adjunct faculty members' right to unemployment benefits was established in March 1989, in the Cervisi court case mentioned above. It is also referenced in Field Directive No. 89-55UI from the EDD Operations Branch to EDD Field Office Managers.
If your request is denied, you may appeal the decision. In your appeal, refer to this court ruling and the Field Directive. (The Cervisi Decision, the Field Directive, and sample language to use in an appeal letter are posted on the AFA website at www.santarosa.edu/afa/adjunct_ui.shtml.) We also recommend that you read advice from FACCC's Andrea York, who suggests strategies for dealing with claims that have been denied (click here).
Where can I get more information?
AFA's website provides information that will assist you in filing for unemployment benefits, including, among other documents, copies of the Cervisi Decision and the EDD Field Office Directive transmitting the Cervisi Decision to EDD staff, sample language to use in an appeal letter, the EDD Unemployment Benefits application form, and other information from the EDD website. To access these documents, click here.
Note: the AFA office will close for winter break at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 20, 2012. Although the office will not be open during the break, AFA staff will respond to voicemail and email at least once a week. Regular office hours will resume on Monday, January 14, 2013—the day that Spring 2013 classes begin.
How to File with EDD
By phone: Monday through
Friday, except holidays
8:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.
To file in English:
1 (800) 300-5616
To file in Spanish:
1 (800) 326-8937
To file by TTY for deaf or
1 (800) 815-9387
By fax: 1 (866) 215-9159
By mail: EDD
P.O. Box 826880
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001
In order to calculate your earnings for the UI application, you'll need to review your Advice of Deposit forms, which are available online at www.santarosa.edu/hr. (Click on "Leave Balances/Pay Stubs" and log in with your Outlook user name and password.)
When filing your application, note that your employer's name is "Sonoma County Junior College District"; AFA does not have a local union number as we are not affiliated with any state or national union; and AFA does not control your hiring, help you search for employment, or "register" you if you are out of work.
What do I say in my telephone interview?
Be sure to let EDD know that you are a temporary, part-time employee who has been laid off for lack of work. (DO NOT SAY YOU ARE ON A BREAK.) If you have been offered an assignment for the fall/spring, explain that you have a tentative assignment for the upcoming semester and that your assignment may be withdrawn at the District's discretion at the last minute because of funding, enrollment, or other changes. We also recommend having on hand a copy of Article 16 of the AFA/District Contract (posted online at www.santarosa.edu/afa/Contract/Articles/art16.pdf), in particular, paragraphs 16.06 and 16.07, which speak to cancellation of hourly assignments.
You should also mention your entitlement to benefits under the Cervisi Decision, which states, "an assignment that is contingent on enrollment, funding, or program changes is not a 'reasonable assurance' of employment."
Click here to read some tips regarding how to handle EDD phone or personal interviews, which was written by Cliff Liehe, a part-time community college instructor who is actively engaged in adjunct issues in various statewide organizations.
EDD Notice of Potential Overpayment
A few adjunct faculty members have reported receiving a Notice of Potential Overpayment from EDD. These notices typically occur due to a difference in payment reporting methods between EDD and SRJC. If you have received such a notice, AFA recommends that you contact Deepa Desai (527-4500 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lisa Hotchkiss (527-4200 or email@example.com) in the Payroll Department. They can provide you with a letter of clarification that you can attach to your appeal to EDD, which should resolve the matter.
Online Guide to Filing Process
To view the PowerPoint presentation from the "Filing for Unemployment Workshop" presented at the FACCC Education Institute's Part-Time Symposium in Fall 2009, go to www.santarosa.edu/afa/Forms/FACCC_EDDPresentation.pdf.
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