I am Tired of Paying For People's Winter Vacations

I hire retired couples for the summer to run campgrounds and other recreation facilities.  Since these campgrounds are closed in the winter (most are under 8 feet of snow) I lay most of these folks off in October. 

The vast majority of my employees do not work the winter.  They have other retirement savings that they supplement working for me in the summer and then they take the winter off.   And that would be all of the story, except in  California.  For some reason in California, but not in most other states, all these folks run straight to the unemployment office and file for unemployment over the winter.  For those of you who don't know how unemployment insurance premiums work, the premium I pay as a percentage of wages is based on past claims experience.  In California, I am an "F", the worst category, and have to pay over 6%(!) of wages to unemployment insurance. 

Now in most states, what these employees are doing is illegal.   It is typical of unemployment offices that you have to call in each week and certify that you are looking for work.  If you are not actively looking for work, then you are not eligible, and most states outside CA seem fairly diligent about enforcing the rules.  Last year, not one but two of the people who were claiming unemployment in CA over the winter were in Mexico on the beach the whole time!  I know, because they called me from there to see if they were going to be rehired in the spring.

It was then that I found out why this happens more in CA than in other states.  I called the California state unemployment office and asked them how I could have cases of unemployment fraud (ie claiming unemployment when one is not actually looking for work) investigated.  The person from the state office got very hostile with me.  She said that I was making a very serious charge, and that if I made such a charge, and fraud was not proven, then I could be liable for civil and even criminal penalties for asking for the investigation.  I said forget it, raised prices to customers to cover the extra winter vacation wages I was forced to pay, and moved on.   


  1. Tim:

    Is there no way to do this without "firing" your employees in the fall, and "rehiring" in the spring? Can't they just remain employees, but with no available hours?

  2. Tim:

    Is there no way to do this without "firing" your employees in the fall, and "rehiring" in the spring? Can't they just remain employees, but with no available hours?

  3. Tim:

    Is there no way to do this without "firing" your employees in the fall, and "rehiring" in the spring? Can't they just remain employees, but with no available hours?

  4. Tony Suruda:

    Years ago I met a fellow who was a snow-maker at a ski resort in New Jersey. He collected unemployment in the off-season and when challenged about looking for work he replied that his profession was snow-making and he couldn't get a job again until the ski season. I don't know what unemployment insurance rate his employer paid. Clearly there is a problem when jobs of a predictably short duration qualify for unemployment benefits.

  5. CandyMan:

    It's no better in New York State - actually it's worse! I have part time employees (20 to 30 hours a week)working 8 months out of the year. They are laid off and collecting about half pay from NYS Unemployment from mid-May until mid-September. My NYS Unemployment account is so far negative that I'll never see anything but their worst rate which is 9.8% right now (6% - chicken feed!). The last couple of years I was paying 11.2% of payroll but that dropped back after "NY" (NY employers) paid off what it "borrowed" from federal unemployment. The employees enjoy their summer, go to their cottages or spend time with their kids and generally come back to work in the Fall. NY doesn't give them too much trouble since there's a firm start back date. I look at it as part my cost of labor and one of the "benefits" that returns experienced employees back to me and my part time seasonal work. Been doing this for 20 years so it's not some short term aberration.

  6. timbaland:

    my buddy got laid off up here in Maine and it took 3 months for him to get his first unemployment check. Kind of defeats the purpose

  7. la petite chou chou:

    Everyone around here thinks you have to be fired without reasonable cause to collect unemployment. I've never heard of anyone who got it just from being laid off or anything but I suppose working for a BIG corporation and not employing anyone myself I wouldn't know for sure.

  8. Greg:

    Can you simply not rehire the people who file for unemployment?