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Reasonable Assurance Letters May Preclude Unemployment Compensation Benefits For Instructors

In the case of Kent State Univ. v. Hannam, 2019-Ohio-2971, an Ohio appellate court held that a reasonable assurance letter for employment in the following fall or spring semesters precludes an educator from receiving unemployment compensation benefits.

In this case, a university adjunct professor received a reasonable assurance letter for employment in the following fall and spring semesters contingent on student enrollment and budget appropriations. In spite of this reasonable assurance letter, the adjunct professor sought to collect unemployment compensation benefits over the summer months arguing that the letter did not guarantee employment for the following academic year. The university objected to unemployment compensation benefits arguing that the letter was adequate to provide a reasonable expectation of employment in the following academic year.

As a matter of law, instructors are prohibited from receiving unemployment compensation benefits “during the period between two successive academic years” – i.e., summer break – if the instructor has a “reasonable assurance that the individual will” be employed following the summer break. Kent State at ¶ 12, citing R.C. 4141.29(I)(1).

The Ohio appellate court found that a reasonable assurance of employment must “fall somewhere between the mere likelihood of continued employment and a guarantee of continued employment.” Kent State at ¶ 23. The court further found that the letter provided at least a likelihood of employment to foreclose the availability of unemployment compensation benefits where (1) the university rarely did not hire professors based on these letters and (2) the letter affirmatively stated that the university would require the adjunct professor’s services absent unforeseen circumstances.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is always changing like the Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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