Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission --
Summary of Wisconsin Court Decision relating to Unemployment Insurance


Subject: Philip C. Smith (Hearing No. 94002938MD) and Nancy A. Gathing (Hearing No. 94002814MD) v. LIRC and Madison Metropolitan School District and DILHR, Case Nos. 95-CV-0798 & 95-CV-0799, respectively (Wis. Circuit Court Dane County, June 27, 1996)

Digest Codes: ET 481

Two substitute teachers were laid off at the end of the school year, but were subsequently given reasonable assurance of the same employment in the fall school term. Nevertheless, the ALJ held that the disqualification provisions of Wis. Stat. 108.04 (17)(a) were not applicable to them because they were not "school year employes," as that phrase is defined in Wis. Stat. 108.02 (22m). The ALJ reasoned that only individuals who had a current employment contract with their school district fit within the statutory definition of "school year employe." During the summer weeks in question, Smith and Gathing had no current employment contract with the district, and therefore they could not have been "school year employes" in those weeks. Since they were not "school year employes," they were not subject to the disqualification provisions of Wis. Stat. 108.04 (17)(a) which by its terms only applies to "school year employes."

The commission reversed, finding that the requirement of there being an employment contract, found in Wis. Stat. 108.02 (22m) refers to an employment contract in effect during the school year, not during the summer weeks. All that is needed during the summer for a "school year employe" to be subject to the disqualification provisions of Wis. Stat. 108.04 (17)(a) is that there be a reasonable assurance of similar employment in the upcoming school year. The employes appealed to circuit court.

Held: Affirmed. The language of Wis. Stat. 108.02 (22m) and 108.04 (17)(a), when read together, unambiguously define the relevant point of the existence of the employment contract as being in the previous school year. Substitute teachers do form an employment contract with their school district each day they accept substitute teaching work during the academic year. Barnett v. LIRC, 131 Wis. 2d 416 (Ct. App. 1986). Smith and Gathing were "school year employes" when they received reasonable assurance of employment for the upcoming school year. They are subject to the disqualification provisions of Wis. Stat. 108.04 (17)(a).


Please note that this is a summary prepared by staff of the commission, not a verbatim reproduction of the court decision.

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