Better Prospects for Unemployment Compensation

BY GWENDOLYN BRADLEY

Guidance issued late last year by the United States Department of Labor heightens the potential for faculty on contingent appointments to get unemployment compensation over breaks between semesters. The guidance, Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 05-17, explains the unemployment compensation standards applied to contingent faculty members and increases the likelihood that they will be eligible for unemployment.

The AAUP, along with a coalition of other organizations, provided information to the labor department regarding the changed reality of contingent faculty on university campuses. The new guidance, echoing themes raised with the department and articulated by the AAUP for years, explicitly acknowledged that “the employment model educational institutions follow has changed appreciably, particularly for institutions of higher education. In higher education the use of part-time instructors, often referred to as “adjunct” or “contingent” faculty, has increased significantly.”

Recognizing these changed circumstances, the new guidance pays particular attention to contingent faculty. Generally, a faculty member may not be paid unemployment compensation “between academic years or terms, and during vacation periods or holiday recesses within terms, if that employee has a ‘contract’ or ‘reasonable assurance’ of performing services in such educational employment in the following year, term, or remainder of a term.”

The guidance explains that, in order to deny unemployment compensation there must be a genuine offer of employment, in the same capacity, and for close to the same pay, and it addresses a number of circumstances particular to faculty in contingent positions. Learn more.

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