The U.S. Labor Department has ruled that Georgia’s decision to deny unemployment benefits to seasonal workers violated workplace laws.
That means thousands of Georgia bus drivers, cafeteria workers and private school teachers could now be eligible for those funds.
The US Bureau of Labor statistics classify more than 64 thousand Georgians as educational service workers—employees who lose work during the summer when school is out. In January, state labor officials cut their summer unemployment benefits to save money. It was on the grounds that Georgia already owed the federal government 740 million dollars in unemployment assistance.
But University of Georgia law professor Jaime Dodge says only the state legislature can legally end seasonal benefits:
“What they did was say ‘we’re going to include these people’ and then suddenly changed that position, and said, ‘wait we’ve decided we’re interpreting the statute wrong and you’re now excluded.’ And that’s where they went wrong. Had they done this through a legislative change, it would be completely valid under federal law.
Brian Albertson with SLA Management based in Orlando, Florida, contracts out cafeteria workers for Georgia schools. He says the decision makes a huge difference for employees who lose work very summer when school is out:
“Whether you’re a cafeteria worker, I don’t know anyone in America who’s untouched. So, we just want to support our employees’ quality of life and anything that we can do to make their life better, we support.”
The back payments could be in the millions of dollars. The money will come from taxpayers and private businesses who contracted out the workers.