Friday, January 17, 2020
California Supreme Court:
Justice Lui Says It Depends on Whether Summer Session Is a ‘Regular’ Term
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court—confronted with the question of whether public school teachers who are employed during the spring semester and are reasonably assured of having work during the fall semester are eligible for unemployment compensation if they don’t teach at summer school—yesterday answered maybe.
Justice Goodwin Lui wrote for a unanimous court in interpreting Unemployment Insurance Code §253.3. It provides that unemployment compensation is not payable to a teacher for the time between semesters if, after providing services at one term, “there is a… reasonable assurance that such individual will perform services in any such capacity for any educational institution in the second of such academic years or terms.”
Div. One of the First District Court of Appeal on June 6, 2016, in an opinion by then-Justice Robert Dondero (now a private judge) said:
“The trial court here concluded that the statutory language unambiguously provides that public school employees who are employed in the spring term, and have received reasonable assurance of reemployment for the following fall term, are not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits during the intervening summer, regardless of whether their school district offers a summer session….[W]e agree.”
The Supreme Court didn’t. Lui wrote:
“[W]e conclude that an ‘academic term’ for purposes of section 1253.3 may include a summer school session if, based on objective criteria, that summer session is a ‘regular’ term comparable to other academic terms that comprise the school year.”
If summer school does constitute a “regular” term, he said, §1253 would not bar unemployment compensation to a teacher who provided no services during that term. He said a summer session might or might not be the equivalent of a spring or fall term, explaining:
“[I]f a school district with conventional fall and spring semesters also offers a two-week summer session with limited offerings and limited enrollment, the summer session would not be a ‘regular’ term. By contrast, if a school district offers a summer session that resembles the fall and spring semesters in terms of enrollment, staffing, budget, and the instructional program offered, then the summer session would qualify as a ‘regular’ term.”
Reverses Petition Denial
The opinion reverses the Court of Appeal’s affirmance of the Superior Court’s denial of a petition for a writ of mandate by which the United Educators of San Francisco, a union, challenged the withholding of unemployment compensation a group of on-call substitute teachers of the San Francisco United School District. They had taught during the spring term ending May 27, 2011 and during the ensuing fall term that began Aug. 15, 2011, but did not work during summer school, held in June and July.
Announcing the remand of the case to the San Francisco Superior Court, Lui observed that “the record contains little evidence, one way or the other, on the objective characteristics of the summer sessions at issue, and the parties, with the guidance of today’s opinion, may introduce such evidence on remand.”
The case is United Educators of San Francisco v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, 2020 S.O.S. 175.
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