Unemployment Compensation for Employees of Educational Institutions: How State Courts Have Created Variations on Federally Mandated Statutory Language

Over the past sixty years, Congress has enacted a system of unemployment insurance for workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. While the Social Security Act of 1935 created much of the statutory framework for this system of insurance, Congress did not include employees of educational institutions within its system of unemployment insurance until 1970, when it amended the Federal Unemployment Tax Act of 1954 (FUTA). Since Congress enacted those amendments, each of the fifty states has passed legislation that substantially conforms to the FUTA amendments. Yet, despite the uniformity of state statutory language, state appellate courts have interpreted the language in diverse and even contradictory ways; a result that leaves uncertain the unemployment insurance status of employees of educational institutions. This Article surveys the diverse state court case law and emphasizes the extent to which these varying interpretations fulfill – or fail to fulfill – the congressional intent behind the FUTA amendments on which the state legislatures based their statutory enactments. The author concludes by recommending that the federal government enact a system of statutory or regulatory monitoring, in order to ensure the fulfillment of the congressional intent behind the FUTA amendments.