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Adjuncts and Unemployment Compensation: Should You File?

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When summer comes, adjunct faculty often find themselves out of work. No work means no pay – so can an adjunct collect unemployment compensation? The PSC and our state affiliate, NY State United Teachers, have been working to reform current New York law, which stacks the deck against adjuncts (see above). But in the meantime, here is a look at your options.

SOME CASES

Despite the limits of current State law, in some cases adjuncts are entitled to unemployment insurance (UI) during the summer months. If you have not been told that you will probably be rehired for at least the same number of courses in the Fall as you taught the previous Spring, or if you have been told directly that you will not be reappointed for as many courses, or not at all, and you are looking for work during the summer, you are eligible and should file to collect. A general letter promising reappointment without naming the specific courses is usually not considered “assurance” by the Department of Labor. Unless the college tells you that they want you back and what they want you back to teach, you have not received “assurance” of reemployment.

If, on the other hand, you have been told orally or in writing that you are reappointed to teach specifically named courses and for as many or more courses in the Fall as you taught the previous Spring, you will probably not be considered eligible for UI during the summer, under current law.

Adjuncts rightfully point out that at the beginning of a new semester, they can be told that their classes have been canceled or that they will be replaced by a full-time instructor or a different part-time instructor. If this has happened to you before, it may help to document it when applying for UI in order to show that you have less assurance than it may seem.

According to Jon Bloom of the Workers Defense League, a workers’ rights organization specializing in UI, it is very important that adjuncts applying for UI provide the Department of Labor with complete information regarding what they have been told by the college about Fall semester. This includes written and oral communications. By telling the Department of Labor everything you have been told, you help protect yourself against accusations that you were not forthcoming and possible demands that you pay UI benefits back.

Applications for UI benefits may be made by phone to the UI Telephone Claims Center (888-209-8124), or online. There is a one-week “waiting period” after you file, and thereafter benefits begin. Further details are on the New York State Department of Labor website.

If your claim is denied, you have a right to a hearing before an administrative law judge. CUNY also has the right to request hearings. The Workers Defense League (212-627-1931) is available for advice and possible representation at hearings.

LOBBYING

PSC members went to Albany in May, as they have for the last six years, to lobby for a reform in State law so that adjunct faculty would be treated no differently from any other workers who may experience seasonal fluctuations in employment (see above). If you would like to help organize on this issue, email Marcia Newfield at mnewfield@pscmail.org, or call 212-354-1252 x213.

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