Early spring is the best time to issue Letters of Reasonable Assurance (LRA) to noncontract employees who work less than 12 months or who may have an unpaid summer break.
All employees, including college and school district employees assigned to educational cooperatives (i.e., adult and special education) and substitutes, are entitled to file a claim for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) upon separation from employment. TWC treats employees filing unemployment claims on breaks as laid off since this is a temporary work stoppage, although the employee has not been fired or quit. As a result, employees also may be able to file for benefits during a scheduled break (summer vacation, winter break, Thanksgiving, spring break, etc.).
Minimizing claims cost
Employees can’t receive unemployment benefits chargeable to the college or district if the employer can prove the employee received notice of the expectation to return to work. The LRA demonstrates that the employer provided notice of a reasonable expectation the worker would be returned to work after the scheduled break.
The LRA is not a guarantee of future employment or a contract; it is a statement that there is a reasonable expectation—at the present time—that a position will be available when school resumes.
LRAs are only necessary for noncontract employees who work less than 12 months. Professional employees who receive a contract for the following year are assured of continued employment by the contract.
An LRA should be sent even when there is uncertainty a position will exist for an individual at the beginning of the next year. If a position is not available, the person may qualify for retroactive unemployment benefits depending on the initial claim date.
LRAs should be issued in early spring to all noncontract employees who work less than 12 months and to anyone who may have an unpaid break. This allows time for employees to sign and return the forms before the school or academic year ends. Without a signed letter, benefits may be charged back to the educational entity. The signed forms should be kept on file and attached as documentation when responding to unemployment claims occurring during summer break or over holiday periods.
Failure to return a signed LRA could be considered a resignation. If, after follow-up, a signed LRA is not secured the district should take appropriate action to terminate the employee for this reason. If the employee files an unemployment claim, the college or district can show a copy of the unsigned LRA and other documentation supporting attempts to secure a signed LRA.
It is also a good practice to provide a letter to new employees and secure a signed copy. Making this part of the hiring process will ensure complete, year-round protection from unemployment claims.
A Sample Letter of Reasonable Assurance is provided in the HR Library (member login required). This letter can be used for noncontract and substitute employees.
Issuing LRAs to noncontract personnel, including substitutes, is a loss-control tool that saves unemployment benefit dollars and administration time in processing and paying unnecessary unemployment claims. Ultimately, such notice may help the employer lower its annual budget for unemployment compensation costs.
Other information on unemployment claims can be found in the TASB Risk Management Fund Insights.
April Mabry is an assistant director at TASB HR Services. Send April an email at email@example.com.
Stay up to date with all the latest HR news and trends by joining the HRX mailing list!