2022 OSEA Guide to Unemployment for School Employees

June, 2022 – Thanks to advocacy from OSEA members statewide, custodial, maintenance, facilities, food services, pre-K and early intervention workers have new rights and protections and no longer need to pass the “reasonable assurance” test to receive benefits. Our union continues to advocate with lawmakers for expanded unemployment rights and protections for even more school employees.

If you have been laid off or do not have a reasonable assurance of a return to work after the summer or any other regularly scheduled break, now is the time to file for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Whether or not the Oregon Employment Department (OED) determines you are eligible, applying for UI benefits as soon as you are laid off could help you receive retroactive benefits if your job is not available after break.

Frequently asked questions about UI for school employees

Only OED can determine a worker’s eligibility for UI benefits. OSEA’s guide is based on generalized information we receive from OED.

1. Keep All Documentation

If they expect to hire you back after break, school districts are required to provide school employees with ‘notice of reasonable assurance’ by May 30. It is crucial for laid off workers to keep copies of all communications from their district, as OED will use these documents to determine if you are eligible for benefits. Print any electronic documents or ask your employer for physical copies if you do not receive them.

2. File As Soon as You Are Laid Off

All school employees who have been laid off should file UI claims, even though many will not be eligible. Unique circumstances can make a difference. With classified school employees, there is no “one size fits all” way of forecasting eligibility. It is better to apply and be declined than to miss out on benefits you could have received. Email Bob Estabrook if you have any questions.

3. Retroactive Benefits

If your claim is denied, you should continue to file weekly claims to document that you are looking for work. If you are not given the same or similar work in the fall, those weekly claims will be valid retroactively, potentially giving you months of additional benefits.

4. Certain Exempt Classifications of Workers

Thanks to OSEA-written legislation in 2019 and 2021, you no longer need to pass the ‘reasonable assurance’ test to access UI benefits if you are:

  • A custodial worker
  • A facilities or maintenance worker
  • A food preparation or food service worker or providing support for such services
  • An early intervention services worker or providing support for such services
  • A prekindergarten services worker or providing support for such services

Your job title alone is not enough to determine your eligibility for benefits, so OED will likely ask you about the type of work you do.

5. Workers With 2 or More Jobs

The ‘reasonable assurance’ requirement only applies to your work for a school district. If you are laid off from any other job(s), you may be eligible for benefits

6. Help Us Fight for UI Benefits for All School Employees!

Tell OSEA about your experience applying for UI benefits and what it meant to you to not get them. Your story will help us lobby for fairer access to benefits in the future. Email Bob Estabrook.