Unemployment Compensation CLC-AFO

Your union along with Illinois Education Association has worked with the Department of Labor (DOL) to change the guidelines that govern adjuncts receiving unemployment.  As of January 2017 DOL guidelines now specifically mention “adjunct faculty” and take into account the reality of being adjunct faculty.

  • The difficulty previously for adjunct faculty has been establishing a “reasonable assurance” of employment. If you had a reasonable assurance of employment you could not get unemployment compensation.
  • DOL has now broadened the definition of “reasonable assurance” of employment to include many realities that all adjuncts face between semesters.
  • The changes in the guidelines make it easier to get unemployment compensation for adjunct faculty between semesters, for example, between fall and spring and between spring and fall semesters.
  • EVEN WITH AN OFFER OF A CLASS IN THE NEXT SEMESTER you may be eligible to receive unemployment.

Department of Labor now mandates that the decision to grant unemployment to adjunct faculty must be based on the merits of the case, and the Illinois Board of Employment Security must now weigh:

  • The possibility of classes being cancelled due to low enrollment
  • The nature of the course offered (required or optional, regular class or sporadically offered, etc.)
  • The possibility of being bumped by a full-time instructor
  • The history of the class making or not making
  • Failure to put the adjunct’s name in the course schedule
  • The absence of a contract (this particularly applies to CLC as we get “offers” and a “notice of assignment” rather than a contract).

What This Means

  • CLC-AFO does not mean to imply that you will be eligible get unemployment between semesters.
  • What is said is that the barriers to getting unemployment have been eased and the criteria for getting unemployment has changed for adjuncts.
  • This is a great benefit for adjunct that find themselves in a financial tight situation between semesters.

Important Links


If you are considering applying for unemployment compensation, please read the three (3) links below for more information, the paper called Summary of New Department of Labor Directive on Adjunct unemployment” is particularly helpful

  • Summary of New Department of Labor Directive on Adjunct Unemployment
  • Federal Unemployment Tax Act: Fact Sheet for adjuncts
  • Unemployment Links


Summary of New Department of Labor Directive on Adjunct Unemployment

Bill Silver:  IEA

Below is a brief overview of the new interpretative changes concerning “reasonable assurance” – as described in Section 3304 (a)(6)(A) of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) and a link to the new DOL directive.


  • The last DOL interpretation of “reasonable assurance” was written in 1986 and it failed to address issues related to Higher Education. The new DOL interpretation now notes that since that time…“the use of part-time instructors, often referred to as “adjunct” or “contingent” faculty, has increased significantly.”


  • Previously, adjunct faculty were generally restricted from receiving unemployment compensation (UC) during summer and holiday breaks if they had a “reasonable assurance” of receiving a class assignment offer for the upcoming semester. The definition of “reasonable assurance” in Illinois simply meant that an adjunct received any kind of class assignment offer for the upcoming semester—whether it actually ran or not.


  • Under the new DOL interpretation, an adjunct no longer is automatically disqualified from receiving Unemployment Compensation (UC) between semesters or breaks, simply because he or she received a class assignment offer for the upcoming semester/academic year.


  • Under the new DOL interpretation, a ruling on eligibility must now be made based on the facts of the case. While this does not mean an adjunct will automatically receive UC over the summer or holiday break, it does mean, however, that unemployment offices must base its determination on factors which impact whether “reasonable assurance” exists.


  • These factors include the school’s decisions based on its “funding” levels, “student enrollment”, “the nature of the course” (required or optional, taught regularly or sporadically) and program changes. The possibility of being bumped by a full-time faculty will also be a factor in the decision.


  • Before making a determination whether there is a contract or reasonable assurance, the unemployment office must decide if the school’s employment offer meets three prerequisites:


  1. The assignment offer may be written, verbal, or implied, but must be made by a person with the authority to offer employment.
  2. The employment offered must be in the same capacity—professional or non-professional—as the previous academic year or term.


  • The economic conditions of the employment offer must not be “considerably less” than earned in the previous academic year or term. “Considerably less” is defined as at least 90% of the earnings [my emphasis] that the claimant received in the previous year, term, or corresponding term (if the adjunct doesn’t work every semester).


  • If the job offered in the following academic year or term does not meet all of the above prerequisites, then the state agency (Illinois Department of Employment Security–IDES) cannot legally deny the claimant Unemployment Compensation (UC).


  • States are now required to analyze the totality of the circumstances and determine if it’s “highly probable” that there is a job available for the claimant.


  • According to the DOL: “If it is not “highly probable” that the contingency will be met, there is no “reasonable assurance” because the contingent nature of the offer outweighs any other facts indicating that the claimant has a “reasonable assurance.”


  • As part of IDES’ determination, it must obtain and analyze a written statement from the employer explaining why the employee received “reasonable assurance.”


  • ”The claimant, however, must also provide sufficient information to IDES to support his or her case. This information may include their own class assignment history (whether they have had cancellations due to low enrollment, program changes, or bumping by full-time faculty), student enrollment numbers, whether there’s been significant reduction in the number of classes, new College standards on how many students are needed for a class to run, the failure to put the adjuncts’ name on the class registry, etc.


  • The DOL also provided guidance regarding multiple employer situations:


  • A claimant can’t be ruled ineligible for unemployment compensation simply because one of his/her employers has given “reasonable assurance”.


  • If one, but not all, employers provide reasonable assurance, IDES has two options:

1) To only consider those employers who do not provide                                            reasonable assurance; or

2) To make a determination based on the entirety of the                                             situation.


Below is a link to the new unemployment directive:



Unemployment Links

Department of Labor Unemployment Letter 5-17



AFT Q and A determining eligibility under the DOL clarification letter



Articles about Social Security and Unemployment



The Unemployment Filing Strategy is underway in Illinois!

  • A Supplement, for Illinois applicants, to Access to Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Contingent FacultyThis is an FAQ with specific advice on how to file in Illinois and what to expect in the interview.  It has links to the application form itself so you can prepare in advance and to other information.
  • Unemployment Insurance. Stage 1:  Filing and Interview – This is a form to collect data (contact info, when/where you filed, etc.) from those who are participating by filing for unemployment.  Information is power, so we need to know as much as possible about who’s filing and what happens.  This is a PDF form that you can print out, fill in and send back to us (instructions on the form).  Or, if you want to do this electronically…
  • Online Form for Stage 1 – Available here on the COCAL website, you can fill this out online and send it directly to us via email.
  • Applicant Information Sheet – fancy name for the unemployment application.  Follow the link to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, where they have available a PDF which you can either print out blank, or fill out and then print out with your info filled in.
  • Advice for Appealing – At the request of some of the organizers and the IEA Higher Education Council, the IEA legal department developed this (PDF) document with advice on how to appeal if your claim is denied.

Access to Unemployment booklet

Earlier versions of this pamphlet have been available on the COCAL website since October 2007.  Now it has been updated and published with beautiful graphics after generous financial help from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.

You can still download a PDF version of this revised pamphlet from this website (without the cover page) by following the “download” link below.

Download a PDF