By BERTRUM J MEISNER JR-There was a protest in Georgia recently where union members objected to the state of Georgia refusing to pay unemployment benefits to school workers over the summer months. Is the state being reasonable? Should workers get unemployment during the summer months when it is scheduled time off? Georgia has been paying these unemployment benefits in the past but it changed its policy recently and has decided to deny the benefit to these workers going forward starting with this summer.
Does being regularly scheduled off for the summer fit within the definition of being unemployed? I know it is hard to find a job these days but at the level these workers are at, they shouldn’t have any problem finding a similar job. After all, the workers we are talking about fill positions, such as cafeteria workers, janitors and bus drivers. Aren’t there plenty of fast food places constantly looking for help? Why couldn’t they work for a fast food restaurant through the summer?
All the affected workers work for private contractors, not directly for the State but, does that really matter? Yes it does because they are considered as temporary contractors not full time state employees. The state of Georgia doesn’t define between part time and full time employment, instead it leaves that up to the employer to make distinction. The state does require several things of those requesting benefits. One of which is to actively search for new employment. Do you think someone who has a guaranteed job again in three months is going to look very hard for another job, especially if he can get unemployment benefits? I doubt they will or at least doubt they will unless they have a desire to better themselves by finding a better job for a better life.
The State of Georgia legal code repeatedly refers to whether or not the “unemployed” has an ongoing relationship with the employer and it does that in reference to whether the employee is expected back to work at a specified date and time. It does this because scheduled time off isn’t necessarily considered unemployment, especially if the so called unemployed is really still considered an employee. That is where the distinction comes in, are these workers really unemployed or just off for the summer?
If these workers are full time employees of the private companies then the private companies should provide for summer employment for these workers. However if they hire them and disclose to them that the work is only during the months that the schools are open, regardless of how many hours they work during the months the schools are open, then I would consider that part time work or temporary work, not full time work.
You can bet that these workers were recruited with the disclosed benefit of being off for a quarter of the year with pay. That would be a very attractive benefit even at their lower pay scale and I would bet you that most, if not all of these workers were also making money under the table during the summer.
Wouldn’t you love to get paid full time wages nine months out of year then get unemployment for the summer months? Isn’t that like getting paid unemployment while being on a three month vacation? The teachers in Georgia are given the choice to have their pay distributed evenly throughout the entire year. The state knows that paying unemployment throughout the summer to their full time workers would be insane. Their employees are hired with complete disclosure and know what is to be expected come pay day, every pay day all year long. Why should employees of contracted companies be any different?
Paying unemployment benefits to workers who are scheduled to be off for the summer seems ludicrous to me because they are not really “UNEMPLOYED”. You can’t be unemployed if you still have an employer who is expecting you back to work at a particular date and time. BJMJr
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