Friday, June 15, 2018
No Unemployment Pay for Family In-Home Caretaker—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal held yesterday that an in-home care provider under a state benefit program is ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits when employed to care for a close family member.
The opinion was written by Justice Terence L. Bruiniers of Div. Five. It affirms the trial court’s ruling upholding the validity of a precedent decision by the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board which declares that the recipient of care under the In-Home Supportive Services (“IHSS”) program is the sole employer of the caregiver.
Tamara Skidgel, appellant in the case, is a caretaker for her daughter under the state-run program. She sued the CUIAB for declaratory relief to challenge the previous decision, anticipating that she may need to file for unemployment benefits if her job ends.
Recipient Sole Employer
Skidgel’s challenge to the 2015 CUIAB precedent decision in Matter of Caldera was based on a theory that a caretaker under the IHSS program is a joint employee of the recipient of care and the government entity handling the program.
Under the program, the county processes applications for the program, handles background checks of caretakers, and assesses and authorizes the services being provided. The county also handles confirmation of timesheets, taxes, benefits, and other payroll functions.
The county is authorized to either contract with a nonprofit entity in order to provide the services or establish a public authority to do so.
Despite the level of involvement of the county and other entities in managing the employees under the IHSS program, the Court of Appeal determined that the recipient of services is the sole employer of the caretaker.
“Although the relevant statutes are not patently clear, we conclude the best reading of the statutes, in light of their plain language and legislative history, is that IHSS recipients were intended to be the sole employers of IHSS providers under the Direct Payment Mode for purposes of unemployment coverage.”
The opinion relies in part on statutory language which specifies that the payment of taxes and other payroll functions are to be performed by the county on behalf of the recipient of services.
It also delves into the legislative history behind the relevant law. The relevant statutes were enacted shortly after certain administrative and court decisions indicated that counties were employers of caregivers under the IHSS program.
According to the court, the Legislature was clearly interested in relieving counties of the burdens of employer status.
Difference of Opinions
The opinion disapproves the 1984 Third District Court of Appeal in In-Home Supportive Services v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board interpreting another IHSS-related law enacted at the same time as the relevant ones in this case. In that previous decision, the court reached the opposite opinion as to the legislature’s intent, finding that the purpose of the laws was to relieve the recipient of the burdens of employer status, not the counties.
The current opinion stops short of commenting on that previous opinion’s ultimate ruling.
“We conclude that, at least for purposes of unemployment insurance coverage, the Legislature has clearly designated IHSS recipients as the sole employers of IHSS providers under the Direct Payment Mode,” Bruiniers declared.
The case is Skidgel v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, 2018 S.O.S. 2987.
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