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Georgia ordered to reverse position on school worker unemployment claims

Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012 7:12 AM
Last updated 7:31 PM
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A federal agency’s decision might lead to thousands of Georgia bus drivers, cafeteria workers and private school teachers getting summer unemployment benefits after the state denied them the money.

Earlier this summer, Richmond County crossing guard Elizabeth Smith was one of about 30 protesting a change that leaves them ineligible for unemployment benefits.  SUSAN MCCORD/STAFF
SUSAN MCCORD/STAFF
Earlier this summer, Richmond County crossing guard Elizabeth Smith was one of about 30 protesting a change that leaves them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler had instituted a benefits change earlier this year, saying it was unfair to pay the seasonal benefits when public school system employees don’t get them.

But U.S. Department of Labor officials determined that Georgia violated workplace laws by refusing to pay the benefits.

Federal officials have ordered Butler to rescind the ruling and pay the teachers and contract workers, according to a letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the Aug. 2 letter, the U.S. Labor Department wrote that Butler’s recent “reinterpretation” of unemployment compensation is without “adequate statutory basis.”

However, Butler said employees were not being treated the same under the old rules.

“We were treating people employed directly by a public school system, or a university, differently than somebody who was contracted by a school system,” Butler told the Journal-Constitution Monday. “In cases where you have a great probability of returning to contracted work, then you’re not eligible for unemployment.”

State labor officials have sought legal guidance on the matter from Georgia’s attorney general.

While Butler was given a month to seek legal guidance, the news of a potential refund was welcomed by Augusta school crossing guards, who were outraged earlier this year when they learned after applying for the seasonal benefits that they were no longer eligible.

“It’s terrible, especially when they didn’t give us any notice. They just sent us down there to apply,” lead Augusta crossing guard Susan Smith said.

Several of Augusta’s 72 guards were still angry about it when they met for an organizational meeting last week, Smith said.

“A lot of us are still trying to dig out of the hole,” she said.

She wondered how, now that school is back in session, they’d obtain the benefits. Recipients of unemployment benefits typically must demonstrate their weekly efforts to obtain other work.

The payments — potentially millions of dollars — would come from businesses and/or taxpayers.

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RoadkiII
6494
Points
RoadkiII 08/14/12 - 07:23 am
6
2
HUH???

Butler met Monday in Atlanta with Teamsters Local 728 and other union and community leaders ...

So, if you are union you get unemployment working a job that you contracted for a yearly wage. Now tell again how unions aren't causing the entire country to go broke.

CobaltGeorge
155742
Points
CobaltGeorge 08/14/12 - 07:33 am
4
2
RK

Between the Unions and King SMNCICBHO, "THIS COUNTRY IS BROKE"

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 08/14/12 - 08:02 am
3
1
unemployment
Unpublished

There should be a correction made in the percentage of unemployed
in Ga. if these bus driver receive unemployment. Thanks to another
democratic union the taxpayers of ga. this includes all that work will have to pay. I would contract these drivers for the 9 months as temporary labor and dismiss their position when scholl is out. When
will people realize that all pay for this foolishness not just middleclass,
but everyone.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/14/12 - 08:09 am
7
0
If a company lays off workers

If a company lays off workers for a certain period, such as a two week hiatus, aren't they eligible for unemployment even though they know they have a definite date to return to work? Why begrudge someone who is actually working access to funds to keep their family afloat between gaps in their contract? We should be focusing our efforts toward those who take advantage of government programs to finance their lifestyles at the taxpayers expense while making no contribution to the system. Those are the ones we need to worry about. I see them everyday, they buy lottery tickets like they are going out of style, and use SNAP funds for snack items, and one would probably think I am making racist comments, but I am talking abut white people who do this also.

RoadkiII
6494
Points
RoadkiII 08/14/12 - 08:21 am
4
1
School employees have the

School employees have the option of getting paid 12 months so they do have money coming in. How do I know this you may ask? My mother was a school teacher and I know a couple of bus drivers very well.

dichotomy
32179
Points
dichotomy 08/14/12 - 08:40 am
3
2
Yeh, I am really surprised

Yeh, I am really surprised that our out of control government agency wants to force the state to give more of our tax money to unions.

So now I guess that Obama's DOL will get Obama's DOJ to sue us if we don't give Obama's union supporters the money.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 08/14/12 - 09:14 am
0
0
Doesn't one thousand hours worked in a year....
Unpublished

determine that you are a full time employee? It seems that this is a cardinal rule in hiring temporary workers. They must be replaced before they work over 1000 hours.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/12 - 09:23 am
3
2
Simple Fix

These workers are getting their entire yearly contracted salary paid out in nine months. The idea was that they might choose to get summer jobs if they wanted more money.

The simplest fix is for the school systems to pay the workers monthly. They will get smaller paychecks, but they will get 12 of them a year instead of nine.

That way, they don't qualify for unemployment compensation.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/14/12 - 09:33 am
6
2
This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with unions. Unemployment compensation has nothing to do with the unions. As far as I know, union dues can not be deducted from unemployment compensation, so the unions are not profiting from this. We are talking about doing the right thing for people who do work, and through no fault of their own, have gaps in their employment during the year. I have no problem with this at all. Unemployment insurance is paid by the employer on the workers behalf, so no money actually comes out of our pockets to finance this. Unemployment benefits are not garaunteed or automatic. Dichotomy, we are not talking about unemployment benefits for teachers, they are on a different contract than a bus driver or crossing guard. My sister in law works for a privately held company, and she is "technically laid off" every year for a week during the July 4th period and a week during Christmas and New Year. Each year she has to file for and is paid unemployment benefits for these two weeks.And she is not employed by the government or represented by the Unions. She had this job long before Obama became president. We need to focus our criticisms at those who take advantage of the system.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/12 - 10:10 am
4
5
Schools

Mr. Ward wrote:

Unemployment insurance is paid by the employer on the workers behalf, so no money actually comes out of our pockets to finance this.

In the case of crossing guards and school bus drivers; these people are government workers paid from school taxes. So the money for unemployment compensation would actually come out of our pockets.

RoadkiII
6494
Points
RoadkiII 08/14/12 - 10:26 am
4
2
We are talking about doing

We are talking about doing the right thing for people who do work, and through no fault of their own, have gaps in their employment during the year.

They have the option of 12 months of pay or "playing the system". Those who choose to take the unemployment insurance knowing they will not seriously look for other employment are stealing from me and you.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/14/12 - 10:59 am
5
0
Well Lttle Lamb, if you want

Well Little Lamb, if you want to have peeing contest about it,
What about the eight weeks the school teachers are getting paid during the summer, what about all the benefits the teachers get in retirement, and most of them are in their early fifties when they become eligible to retire with full benefits, all at taxpayers expense. I ran into one of my old high school teachers the other day, who retired the year after I grduated, which was in 1977, and she has been retired longer than she was employed, and in her own words, has not missed a paycheck or health insurance the entie time. She was 54 years old when she retired, she said she was able to do all she wanted to do in the early years, while she had excellent health, and still enjoys good health now in her 80's. All at taxpayer expense.
CONTRACTS
• What is a contract of employment?
o In order to begin employment in a local school system, the professional educator must have a valid Georgia teaching certificate and must have signed a contract of employment. It must be understood that in Georgia contracts for teachers can be issued for only one year at a time.
RICHMOND COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM (RCSS)
JOB DESCRIPTION
____________________________________________________________________________________

OFFICIAL TITLE: Transportation Department School Bus Driver – Driver I

SUPERVISOR: Assistant Director of Transportation

SALARY RANGE: In accordance with RCBOE Salary Schedules

TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT: Work Year - 10 Months
Hours vary. Length of the work year and hours of employment shall be those established by the School Board. Extended hours beyond the regular school day may be occasionally required. As stated before, I am a Republican, and once helped defeat the installation of a union at a local Iron and Steel plant where I worked while in college. This is a privately held company, and the owner of this company took very good care of his employees. The union idea was started by a new employee who worked in one of the mega steel mills up north, and was able to brain wash a few of the less educated employees. I have no objection to the non professional employees getting unemployment compensation to supplement their self.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Primary Location System Wide
Salary Range $9.23 to $12.05 / Per Hour
So Raodkill, obviously your mother must have been a teacher in a different school system, as the above referenced definition is from PAGE website. And as everyone can see, a contract for a bus driver is a 10 month contract, not a 12 month contract. And they are paid on an hourly basis, which as one may observe, is not a lot of money. So they do not have the option of being paid on a 12 month basis.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/14/12 - 10:55 am
4
0
Little Lamb- They do not have

Little Lamb- They do not have the option of a 12 month contract.
TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT: Work Year - 10 Months
Hours vary. Length of the work year and hours of employment shall be those established by the School Board.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/12 - 11:17 am
1
3
Thanks

Thank you for providing information, Mr. Ward. You show us that bus drivers have a 10-month work year. Well, in light of the opinion handed down by these as yet unnamed U.S. Department of Labor bureaucrats, the smart thing for local school systems to do is change the terms of the contract and make the bus drivers 12-month workers with the annual pay the same, but stretched out into 12 monthly checks.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 08/14/12 - 12:15 pm
5
1
Little Lamb- your reply does

Little Lamb- your reply does seem a little condescending, as an educated person would appreciate that the research has been presented so that a better informed decision could be reached. But I will overlook your arrogance or ignorance, whichever you prefer to call it. If you read carefully, you would see
"TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT: Work Year - 10 Months
Hours vary. Length of the work year and hours of employment shall be those established by the School Board. Extended hours beyond the regular school day may be occasionally required"
So an educated person would assume that at the end of the 10 month contract that this years and last years salary would not be the same. Therefore, they are paid on an hourly basis, as some weeks may reqire more hours than others.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 08/14/12 - 01:05 pm
1
3
Hey,

I was not being arrogant. I was just presenting an opinion that school systems can avoid paying as much unemployment insurance if they just call the workers 12-month workers instead of 10-month workers.

cheapster505
566
Points
cheapster505 08/14/12 - 02:01 pm
2
0
middle class gone

at one time unions were strong the country was strong middle class was strong now unions are in decline country is in decline middle class is in decline rich just get richer, guess we blamed the right groups ?

dwb619
91639
Points
dwb619 08/14/12 - 02:23 pm
1
1
unions

None of the affected employees are represented under a union contract are they?
Also, are the teachers and administrators offered the option of a 10 month contract?

OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 08/14/12 - 08:28 pm
1
0
If you paid these employees

If you paid these employees on a 12 month basis most of them would be making below the miniumum wage. I work as a contractor worker (by my choice) but if my services were not needed by the company I contract with for over 5 days due to lack of work I would be eligible for benifits. I work through a professional agency and my unemployment as well as my Medical Benifits are deducted each pay period. If I were laid of for 5 days I have earned the unemployment benefits it is not a handout. I am tired of handouts for LAZY people not people who are working and have a temporary interuption in employment.

hotsaucemom
164
Points
hotsaucemom 08/14/12 - 09:19 pm
1
1
If Michael Thurmond was stil

If Michael Thurmond was still the state Labor commissioner this would never happen. See this what happen when you Georgians don't get off your cozy butt and vote, now Georgia is a Republican controlled state The Republican Party mean the working people no good.

IamPerplexed
2
Points
IamPerplexed 08/16/12 - 09:35 pm
0
0
I should have been born a teacher

Today I received my 2nd rejection letter for my disability claim that I filed one year ago. Social Security's doctor diagnosed me with Autism, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Disthymic Disorder. In her official report SSA's doctor stated that I am not able to work due to conditions related to autism. There is a 85% unemployment rate in autism for obvious reasons. Apparently it is easier to get government benefits if you are a contracted worker or if you are fired for misconduct than it is for an autistic person who has verbal communication problems, sensory overload problems, borderline memory, difficulty focusing, severe anxiety reactions, gastrointestinal problems, poor emotional regulation, etc, etc, etc. At least, according to one teacher, she will be able to take her vacation out of town thanks to the Feds rather than having to take her vacation in town. Please excuse me, I need to go find a lawyer so I can have a roof over my head this winter. Thank you FEDS, you've made my feelings of worthlessness complete.

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