School districts face a unique circumstance related to employees filing for unemployment benefits: a scheduled break over the summer. In today’s labor market many substitute jobs are going unfilled. Subs are dropping off school rolls, and then trying to file unemployment claims over the summer or winter break.
You can protect your unemployment compensation program if you issue letters of reasonable assurance before the spring semester officially ends.
Letter of reasonable assurance 101
Reasonable assurance is a provision in the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act that protects school districts during the summer and other scheduled breaks. A 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.
Employees cannot receive unemployment benefits chargeable to school districts if they have reasonable assurance that they will return to work after a scheduled break.
Download this resource for guidance on when to appeal unemployment compensation claims.
Who should get an LRA?
Issue LRAs to noncontract employees, including substitutes, food service workers, teacher aides, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, and any other personnel who will not work during a scheduled break but are expected to return after the break is over.
- LRAs should be issued to everyone who signs up on your list to substitute at the time of hire. It should be part of your new-hire documentation.
- Before school is officially out for the year, it is important that district administrators issue another LRA to employees who do not work during the break.
How to deliver an LRA
The LRA should be sent, signed, and returned before the summer break so you know before the end of the year if the person intends to return the next year. In certain situations, the LRA may also be used to protect your district against current claims that extend into summer break.
This means that someone who was receiving full or partial benefits during the school year (out of work for an illness or injury, reduced wages due to cut in hours) can still have their school wages suppressed during the summer if they have reasonable assurance to return once the break is over.
Consequences of not signing an LRA
This is, perhaps, the most important current issue. If a noncontract employee refuses to sign the LRA, it is considered quitting. You are making a job offer to continue working in the next school year, but the person is turning it down.
- Document the refusal by logging it (electronically or by using a witness to sign it).
- Quitting or refusing work is a disqualification from receiving unemployment benefits. Make sure your LRA has language saying as much.
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, you should respond that the employee voluntarily resigned their position by refusing the offered LRA.
LRA during the school year
A key point of the LRA is that it only protects a school over scheduled breaks, not during the school year. If subs refuse daily work, then ignore sending the LRA to the school, and tell the TWC the person quit. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) makes it easy to report work refusals online.
LRA during the break
When unemployment claims arrive during a break, they generally fall into two categories – claimants who are returning after the break, and those who are not.
If the person is returning, send the TWC a copy of the LRA. Otherwise, there is no need. People who quit or were fired do not have reasonable assurance, so avoid confusing the TWC by send the LRA.
How the Fund can help
Fund members with Unemployment Compensation coverage benefit from expert support from TASB Attorney James Ezell. Members can contact James for help navigating the claims process and preparing for appeals, hearings, and legislative changes.
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.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.