OSEA gain: Unemployment insurance change

In a victory for all education employees, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance requiring states to allow those who quit their jobs for good reasons to receive unemployment compensation during school recess periods.

“This is a huge step toward reversing the historic discrimination against education employees that currently denies our members unemployment compensation eligibility during the summer months,” said Ed Edwards, OSEA’s director of government relations. “The new guidelines wouldn’t have come about without OSEA’s advocacy.”

In 2016, OSEA requested and helped pass Senate Bill (SB) 1534 that would have allowed classified employees in Oregon who voluntarily quit with good cause to receive unemployment during school breaks and the months between academic years. But SB 1534 was prevented from going into effect when the DOL determined it did not meet federal guidelines in February 2016.

On Dec. 22, 2016, the DOL issued its new guidance, which now not only permits all states to make the changes made by SB 1534, but requires they do so. It also requires that this change apply not to just classified employees, but to all education employees.

The new guidance is broader in scope than SB 1534. The Oregon Employment Department has said it is still analyzing the impact the guidance will have in Oregon.

In the meantime, OSEA lobbyists will continue to press lawmakers to pass legislation providing classified employees the same unemployment compensation eligibility as all other Oregon workers.

“For years, OSEA has worked hard to gain unemployment compensation equity,” OSEA Government Relations Specialist Soren Metzger said. “The news from the U.S. Department of Labor will be helpful this legislative session in achieving our goal.”

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