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Thomas v. State, Department of Employment Security

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

September 23, 2013

JOHN H. THOMAS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF WASHINGTON, DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY, Respondent

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO PUBLISH OPINION

The respondent, State of Washington Department of Employment Security moved on August 23, 2013, to publish the court's August 5, 2013 opinion. The court has determined that the motion should be granted. Therefore, it is

ORDERED that appellant's motion to publish opinion is granted.

Lau, J.

John Thomas appeals from a Washington Employment Security Department commissioner's decision denying his request for unemployment benefits. The commissioner applied RCW 50.44.050 and determined that Thomas, an elementary school lunchroom manager, was ineligible for benefits because he was a school employee who sought benefits during a summer school break period, despite having a reasonable assurance of returning to work at the beginning of the next academic year. Because the commissioner correctly applied the law to the unchallenged factual findings, we affirm.

FACTS

The facts are undisputed. The Seattle School District hired John Thomas as an elementary school lunchroom manager in January 2008. Thomas's job duties include managing the kitchen, setting out dishes, cooking, cleaning, and handling the kitchen paperwork. Thomas works as a lunchroom manager during the school year, which runs from September to June.

During each spring season in 2008 through 2011, the school district sent letters to lunchroom staff asking them to submit their names if they were interested in summer groundskeeping or custodial work. Each year, Thomas submitted his name for this work. He accepted work as a custodian or groundskeeper during the 2008, 2009, and 2010 summer breaks. Shortly before the 2011 summer break, Thomas learned that the school district did not have a summer position available for him due to budget constraints.

Though the school district did not offer Thomas groundskeeping or custodial work in summer 2011, Thomas knew before the end of the 2010-11 school year that he would be returning to work as lunchroom manager for the 2011-12 school year. He resumed work as a lunchroom manager on September 7, 2011.

Because he had no summer work with the school district, Thomas applied to the Washington Employment Security Department for unemployment benefits in July 2011. The Department denied Thomas's application under RCW 50.44.050(2), the "reasonable assurance" statute.[1] Specifically, the Department denied benefits because Thomas was a school employee who sought benefits during a school break period, though he had reasonable assurance of returning to work under the same terms and conditions at the beginning of the next academic year.

Thomas appealed the Department's decision and an administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing. The ALJ affirmed the Department's denial of benefits. Thomas petitioned the Department's commissioner for review. The commissioner adopted the AU's findings of fact and conclusions of law and affirmed the Department's denial of benefits, concluding that under RCW 50.44.050(2), Thomas was ineligible for benefits during the summer period that fell between two academic years.

Thomas petitioned for review in King County Superior Court. The superior court affirmed the commissioner's decision. Thomas appeals.

ANALYSIS

Standard of Review


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