School districts face a unique circumstance related to employees filing for unemployment benefits: a scheduled break over the summer months. Reasonable Assurance is a provision that exists in the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act to protect school districts during the summer and other scheduled breaks. The Letter of Reasonable Assurance (LRA) is a written agreement from the school that an employee can expect to return to the same or similar job after a scheduled break, for example, in the next school year.
When to issue an LRA
Before school is officially out for the year, it is important that district administrators issue the LRA to employees who will have a scheduled break of one week or more in the coming school term. The LRA may be used to protect your district against current claims that extend into summer break. Benefits are not payable over the scheduled summer break this year as usual.
Reasonable Assurance from one district protects the former district. If you release a contract employee for lack of work, learning later that they have signed a contract with another district, ask the Texas Workforce Commission to protect your account from the date they sign the new contract.
Who should get an LRA
An LRA should be issued to noncontract employees, including substitutes, food service workers, teacher aides, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and any other personnel who will not be working during a scheduled break but are expected to return after the break is over. Employees cannot receive unemployment benefits chargeable to school districts if they have reasonable assurance that they will return to work after the scheduled break.
Consequences of not signing an LRA
If a noncontract employee refuses to sign the LRA, document the refusal by logging it (electronically or by using a witness to sign it). Failure to sign an LRA can be treated as a voluntary resignation from employment, thus disqualifying the employee from receiving benefits. A simple sentence that reads “failure to sign and return this letter of reasonable assurance will be treated as a voluntary resignation by the employee” is enough. If an employee refuses to sign their LRA and then files for benefits during the summer break, the district should respond that the employee voluntarily resigned their position by refusing the offered LRA.
The TWC and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) are updating their websites as new information on the topic is available:
How the Fund can help
For more information or questions about the LRA, contact TASB Risk Management Services Unemployment Compensation Attorney James Ezell at 800.482.7276, ext. 2857. To learn more about COVID-19 and unemployment compensation, visit our FAQ.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.