As the end of the school year approaches, one of the more popular questions we receive has to do with the salary notice schools provide to their employees. Legally, RC 3319.12 requires boards of education, by the first day of July, to give each teacher who holds a valid contract for the succeeding school year a “notice” of the salary they are to be paid. Of course, the law also stipulates that this salary shall not be less than the salary paid during the preceding year unless the reduction is part of a uniform plan affecting the entire district.

In practical terms, for many years districts provided this notice in written form and included it with the final pay check mailed to teachers in June. However, with the widespread acceptance of direct deposit, providing these salary notices became a unique and separate mailing from the district treasurer’s office, although the law does not specifically require these notices to be mailed. While there is no affirmative statement on the topic, electronic notification (via e-mail) would seem to suffice.

One continual question that arises is whether this salary notice also could serve the same purpose as the reasonable assurance letter that employers provide to employees for unemployment purposes. While theoretically possible, the realistic answer is no, these notices are distinct and should be kept separate. In many situations where districts have tried to rely on their annual (and typically worded) salary notice as a reasonable assurance letter in defending an unemployment claim, they failed because the hearing officer looked for a specific reasonable assurance letter, not another letter or notice than could be construed as one.

Also note that salary notices are required only for teachers, whereas reasonable assurance letters must be provided to all employees. Attempting to use salary notices for “dual purposes” risks overlooking an entire classification of employees who are even more likely to file for unemployment than teachers over the summer and holiday breaks. The best practice would seem to be providing a separate salary notice and reasonable assurance letter, to each employee, by the end of the school year.

Posted by Van D. Keating on 6/16/2017