Teachers in Texas are much like any other workers that lose their jobs – they are eligible to receive weekly unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to help them survive while they look for other positions. Teachers and those who work in education must meet the same eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation as other workers do, but there are additional factors the state considers, including if they are on a scheduled break and if they have a reasonable reassurance of returning to work.
Ongoing Eligibility Requirements and Base Period
Like all states, Texas has specific eligibility requirements to for receiving unemployment insurance benefits. A person's past earnings must meet a certain minimum threshold, and their unemployment must have occurred through no fault of their own. They must also show their willingness and availability to work while collecting benefits.
Texas looks at a claimant's one-year "base period" to determine eligibility for benefits. This is the first four of five complete calendar quarters before the claimant filed for UI. For example, if the claimant filed for UI in October 2021, their base period would be from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
Defining the Alternate Base Period for Unemployment Claims
A teacher who has not worked for a long time due to disability, pregnancy, illness or injury may not have enough wages to qualify for receiving unemployment benefits during their regular base period. The Texas Workforce Commission may use an alternate base period that focuses on their earnings history just before they filed for unemployment.
The teacher's base period wages and work history must meet certain requirements:
- They must have earnings in a minimum of two of the four calendar quarters of the base period, and
- They must make at least 37 times their weekly benefit amount in earnings over the entire base period.
Amount and Duration of Regular Unemployment Benefits
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) determines a claimant's weekly UI payments by dividing the earnings for the highest-paid quarter of their base period by 25. This gives claimants a weekly maximum benefit amount of up to $535 in payments.
Under Texas law, a job seeker can get benefits payments for up to 26 weeks. If they still haven't found a job, they may be eligible for extended state or federal benefits if they are looking for work during a period of high unemployment.
Qualifying Considerations for Teachers
Teachers and other school employees must consider several things when filing for Texas unemployment benefits. Are they on a scheduled break, like summer break? If they have earnings in the base period of their claim, are on a planned break, and have reasonable assurance of a job that sets out when they will return, they will not typically qualify for UI benefits because the TWC cannot use their school wages to calculate the benefit amount.
The type of job separation that occurs will also factor into whether a teacher will be eligible for UI benefits. If they lost a job through no fault of their own, they are more likely to qualify for benefits than if they voluntarily quit. The state determines UI eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
Reasonable Assurance of Work
Reasonable assurance is a verbal or written commitment that the educator will have a job to return to following a scheduled break or in the following academic term at their school or another school. The TWC cannot use past wages to calculate an educator's UI benefits if:
- They have reasonable assurance of a job at a school.
- They sign up as a substitute teacher for any school.
- They accept a job at any school.
The TWC can calculate benefits for people who have enough earnings from non-school jobs. Teachers or others working in education who are unsure if they are eligible for UI can contact the TWC at 800-939-6631 to speak to a customer service representative.
Resignation, Retirement and Disqualification from UI Benefits
Some educational institutions offer employees financial incentives to persuade them to retire or resign. Teachers and others who work in education who take these incentives may not qualify for UI benefits unless they were already in danger of layoffs.
Teachers who sign a letter of resignation rather than accept a layoff may also not be eligible for UI benefits because the TWC considers a resignation to be leaving the job voluntarily. However, they might get benefits if the employer faced budget cuts or layoffs were otherwise imminent. If the teacher retires and receives a pension, the TWC will reduce their amount of benefits based on their pension amount.
Terms of Employment Termination
An unemployed person must be out of work through no fault of their own to qualify for unemployment benefits. Their termination may have occurred through layoffs, a reduction-in-force (RIF), or through downsizing for economic reasons. However, if an employer terminates a person's job for misconduct, they won't get UI benefits. Examples of misconduct include: violating the law, violating company policy, or not performing their job duties when they have the ability to do so.
Quitting a job usually means that the terminated employee isn't eligible for UI benefits, but there are exceptions to this rule, particularly if a person has a good reason for quitting that relates to the job or a medical condition.
Exceptions to Termination Rules for Texans
The TWC investigates the termination of the relationship between the employer and employee. If it feels that any employee would have quit under the applicant's same circumstances, that applicant will still be eligible for UI benefits.
People who leave a job due to domestic violence or stalking are eligible for UI. Those who quit their jobs should keep documentation of their reasons for doing so. This can include a restraining order, a doctor's note or a record of an employees' complaints about dangerous workplace conditions.
Work Search Requirements
To keep getting weekly UI payments, an unemployed educator must show they can work, are available to work and are looking regularly for jobs. Any individual offered suitable work must accept it.
The claimant must register with a TWC workforce center online or in person and record their job search results. The TWC requires claimants to make a minimum number of job contacts per week and will let them know how many. The claimant then records their efforts in looking for a job in a work search activity log, which the TWC can ask to see at any time.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.