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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court posts employment decision late this afternoon

In Indiana State University v. William C. LaFief and IDWD (Review Bd.), a 6-page, 3-2 opinion, argued Feb. 22, 2008, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

The issue is whether a university professor who agreed to a fixed-term employment contract was entitled to unemployment benefits upon the non-renewal of his contract. We hold that the professor was not voluntarily unemployed and is entitled to benefits. * * *

In this case, the parties’ dispute centers on whether LaFief was disqualified under Ind. Code ch. 22-4-15. Indiana State contends that because LaFief agreed to a fixed-term employment contract, he became voluntarily unemployed at the expiration of that contract term. We hold otherwise. * * *

LaFief was employed by Indiana State during the 2005-06 academic year. He was not permitted to continue this employment during the next academic year. The fact that LaFief had warning that his employment could terminate upon the contract’s expiration does not change the fact that at the end of the year he became unemployed. The termination of his employment was no more voluntary than the termination of employment of an employee at will, who is presumably on notice that his employment could terminate at any time. * * *

This holding does not alter the general rule that employees who contractually agree to mandatory vacation periods or temporary shut downs are not eligible for unemployment benefits so long as they have reasonable assurance that they will continue to be employed after the mandatory vacation period or temporary shut down ends. * * *

For the above reasons, we affirm the Review Board’s decision.

Sullivan and Boehm, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., dissents with separate opinion, in which Rucker, J., concurs. [which begins] Unemployment benefits are contingent upon a person being terminated from or leaving employment. In expressly entering into a fixed-term employment contract, Professor LaFief voluntarily agreed that his employment would terminate at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 academic year. His employment with Indiana State University thus ended when the contract expired. After the end of the 2005-06 academic year, there was no employment to leave. Before the contract ended, that is, during the time he was employed, LaFief was not discharged, nor did he leave his employment, and thus he did not become eligible for unemployment benefits.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 17, 2008 06:18 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions