Unemployment checks no longer part of summer break, COA rules

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Finding that an addition to the state’s statute did not change the intent of the law, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that school bus drivers in Anderson were rightly denied their unemployment checks.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of unemployment compensation in D.B., et al v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Department of Workforce Development and Anderson Transit System, Inc., 93A02-1301-EX-71.

For several years, school bus drivers, who are owners or employees of Anderson Transit, and contracted with Anderson Public Schools had been able to apply for and receive unemployment insurance during summer breaks.

However, at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, the Review Board of the Department of Workforce Development denied the applications on the grounds that changes to statutory language made the drivers ineligible for payments. In particular, the board found that the school system’s yearly summer break constituted a vacation and that the drivers had “reasonable assurance” their jobs would return when classes restarted, so they did not meet the requirements for unemployment compensation.

During legislative sessions in 2011 and 2012, the Indiana General Assembly added and amended Indiana Code 22-4-3-5 which dealt with the definition of unemployment.

The drivers argued, in part, that the board was construing the vacation provisions in the amended statute too broadly. They asserted that previous decisions from the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court have held that unpaid shutdowns, like the one the drivers experienced every summer, was a layoff and therefore compensable under state law.

The Court of Appeals disagreed. It noted that even before the enactment of I.C. 22-4-3-5, Indiana law recognized that a mandatory vacation or shutdown did not entitle the employees to unemployment checks. Although the Legislature enacted a law that seemed to modify common law by statute, the appeals court stated it presumed the General Assembly was aware of the common law and did not intend to change it more than the new provisions allowed.


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