Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

School's out, and Help Wanted is tackling some questions related to employees' summer breaks.

DEAR CARRIE: I work in a public school. I was wondering if the district is required to give employees a written letter stating they will have a position in September, when school reopens. One year we received a letter. The next year we didn't, and the administration said it wasn't obligated to give us one. I hope you can clear up the confusion.

DEAR NEED: You have to be given a notification, and it can be written or oral.

Here is what the New York State Department of Labor said:

"Notice of reasonable assurance that one has a position the next school semester must be given by someone in authority. Generally this is done via a letter, but could also be done verbally."

The notification issue is crucial for school employees because state unemployment insurance law has special rules for teachers and other school employees.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Those rules determine whether the employees are eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer break or simply need to wait to restart their employment in the new year. And notification about their job prospects is key.

"Teachers and other school employees generally do not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits during breaks in the school year or the time between school years or terms," the Labor Department said. "This applies when . . . there is reasonable assurance of a similar job in the next school year or term, or after the break."

So having a promise of employment matters much more than how that promise is delivered.

DEAR CARRIE: Our daughter, who was employed as a teacher assistant for two years, was laid off last week. It was suggested that she write a letter of resignation. If she writes that letter, could she still qualify for unemployment benefits? She is divorced and desperately needs a job and health coverage.

DEAR EXIT: Since your daughter was laid off, the school district's suggestion seems odd, and worse, could jeopardize her chance to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Generally, employees who lose a job through no fault of their own, can qualify for benefits. So saying "I quit" is very different from "I was laid off."

"As this employee is being excessed, it appears that she would be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits," said employment attorney Howard Wexler of Seyfarth Shaw in Manhattan.

"It is unclear why it has been suggested to her that she write a letter of resignation."

In some situations, submitting a resignation letter despite a layoff will increase an employee's chance of receiving extras like a severance package.

But the strategy could still diminish the person's chances for unemployment benefits.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Although this may benefit the employee in some respects, such as receipt of severance, it could also jeopardize the employee's eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits," Wexler said.

An employer might even offer an employee a resignation option because quitting rather than being laid off might be a more attractive story line to present to prospective employers.

In this case, as with severance, employers should insist on some protections.

"In such instances, an employer may wish to have the employee submit a letter of resignation and most certainly should also insist that the employee execute a general release of all claims to protect against any future wrongful termination/discrimination claims," Wexler said.

Go to http://bit.ly/lischool for more on unemployment benefits and school employees.