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Former UA lecturer appeals compensation ruling

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

A former lecturer at the University of Akron is appealing a state decision that she was ineligible for unemployment compensation when her job ended.

The administrative appeal in Summit County Common Pleas Court pits Paula Maggio against the university and the state.

Maggio was a part-time instructor in women’s studies at UA from fall 2007 to spring 2010. She became a full-time lecturer for fall 2010 and spring 2011 and her appointment was extended another semester.

In fall 2011, she learned her workload for the next semester would be cut from four courses to two, halving her income and eliminating the benefits she received as a full-time staffer.

That is about all that UA and the state, on one side, and Maggio, on the other, agree to in the case that could be a bellwether for other faculty in similar situations.

According to court documents, Kathryn Feltey, interim director of the women’s studies department, and sociology department chairman Matthew Lee met with Maggio in November 2011 to offer her two courses for the coming spring semester.

Maggio balked, suggesting that she was being subjected to age discrimination because she was “over 40” and that two additional courses she wanted to teach had been offered to a part-timer whom Maggio maintained was younger and less experienced.

Maggio refused to tell UA if she wanted to take the two courses that had been offered to her and tried to route the conversation to her issue: that she wanted more courses.

Feltey got “irritated and angry and said maybe it would be better if you didn’t teach anything in the spring, and I said, ‘Are you letting me go?’ and she said, ‘Yes, I’m letting you go,’ ” Maggio testified in the brief.

“Then as she stood up to leave the room, she said, ‘Let me rephrase that. Your contract ends in December. I’m not rehiring you.’ ”

Maggio filed for unemployment, setting off a chain of filings and appeals.

At first, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services sided with Maggio, awarding her unemployment compensation that began Dec. 11, at the start of the semester break.

The ruling found that Maggio was unemployed because of lack of work.

When UA appealed, a hearing officer reversed the decision. She found that Maggio quit her job without good cause and was ineligible for benefits.

Maggio appealed to Judge Tom Parker in Summit County Common Pleas Court, who will review the court filings.

In this latest appeal, Maggio maintains she never quit her job and that she only had the possibility of teaching two courses in the next semester. State law prohibits university employees from collecting unemployment if they have a reasonable assurance of employment in the next term.

The university maintains that state law prohibits university employees, such as Maggio, from getting benefits in the weeks between terms.

Feltey and Lee “had no choice but determine that Claimant did not want to teach in the spring semester,” according to a state brief.

Parker will issue a decision in coming weeks.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.



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