Adjunct faculty may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits during breaks when they are not teaching and not earning any wages. However, adjunct faculty who have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment after the break are not eligible for benefits. For example, if you teach a course during the fall semester that runs from September to December, you are not eligible for benefits during the Thanksgiving break because you have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment after the break.
Eligibility for the period between semesters is more nuanced, but the same principle applies. If you are unemployed between semesters, but you have “reasonable assurance” of continued employment in the next semester, you are not eligible for benefits during the break. You are generally considered to have “reasonable assurance” if you have been informed that you will continue to be employed in the next semester and earn at least 90% of the wages you earned in the previous semester. A vague form letter about continued employment generally would not suffice, but a course schedule or even a letter or e-mail stating the number of credits that you are expected to teach in the next semester may constitute “reasonable assurance.”
It is important to note that “reasonable assurance” is based on the information that you have received at the time that you apply for benefits. Therefore, if you receive “reasonable assurance,” you would not be eligible for benefits, even if the courses to which you are assigned are ultimately canceled at or after the beginning of the semester. It is also important to note that, if you have any employment besides teaching, your eligibility for benefits could be affected. You are not considered to be unemployed on any day in which you perform any work—even an hour or less—or in any week in which you earn more than the maximum benefit rate (currently $435.00).