What is Written Reasonable Assurance?

Written reasonable assurance is a written notice from a school unit to an employee informing the employee that the school unit plans to hire that employee in a similar capacity following any regularly scheduled breaks in the school year including summer vacation. By issuing written reasonable assurance, a school unit can greatly reduce its potential unemployment liability to those employees who are not paid during the breaks in the school year. Written reasonable assurance does not reduce the unit’s liability when school is in session.

Who should receive written reasonable assurance?

All non-professional employees who are not paid for the vacation breaks during the school year are eligible. Common recipients of letters of reasonable assurance include secretaries, teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, substitute employees whom you wish to use again, and other personnel who generally are only employed for the school year. One safe rule of thumb is that if you are not certain whether or not to issue reasonable assurance, issue it. If, after issuing reasonable assurance for the summer break, the school department realizes that the individual will not be offered a position the next semester, a written notice should be sent to the employee revoking the original reasonable assurance notice.

What does direct reimbursement mean?

This is an option, provided by the State Unemployment Law, for non-profit employers to make direct benefit payments to the Dept. of Labor in lieu of paying contributions to the State’s Unemployment Fund. Employers using the direct reimbursement method of payment are billed on a monthly basis for all unemployment benefits paid to claimants that resulted from previous employment with the employer. The MSMA Unemployment Fund is a group direct reimbursement program. MSMA collects quarterly contributions from its member units and pays the Dept. of Labor for benefits assessed to member units on a monthly basis. By utilizing the direct reimbursement method of paying for unemployment benefits, MSMA is able to keep contribution rates below those offered by the State of Maine.

How long can someone collect unemployment benefits?

When someone applies for unemployment benefits, a benefit year is established. Claimants may collect for 26 of the 52 weeks within a benefit year. Those 26 weeks do not have to be consecutive.

If someone is asked or encouraged to resign, can they collect unemployment benefits? 

Yes. Whenever an employee is asked to resign or is allowed to resign vs. being discharged, the Department of Labor will treat that separation as a discharge and the burden falls onto the employer to show that the discharge was for misconduct. If misconduct is not found, then the claimant will be allowed benefits. In the school setting, this occurs often when the school has determined not to renew an employee’s contract and allows the employee to resign. The DOL will consider this a discharge, but not for misconduct, and will allow benefits to the claimant.