Skip to main content

Appeals court rules Minnesota high school students can get unemployment benefits

They've been denied the benefits, and some were even asked to pay them back.

Minnesota high school students who were denied COVID-19 unemployment benefits sued the state, and now the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled in their favor. 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard oral arguments related to the lawsuit filed Oct. 1 by Youthprise and a group of Minnesota high school students. And that same day, they found out the court ruled in their favor, a post on Youthprise's Facebook page says

The lawsuit was filed after a few high school students, who've been working to help their families pay bills and rent, filed for unemployment after their hours were cut earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, the students received unemployment plus the $600 per week in CARES Act money – only for the state to then ask for the money back because they received the money in error. 

“The income from my job helped my family pay the rent, and feed our family,” Cole Stevens, a Roosevelt student, said, according to Youthprise. “We are over six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the state is still asking me to pay back the benefits I earned.

A 1939 Minnesota law makes high school workers ineligible for unemployment benefits despite employers paying into unemployment on their behalf, Youthprise says. However, the lawsuit alleges the CARES Act established a special program that allows employees who are normally ineligible for unemployment benefits, like high school students, to receive unemployment. 

Follow Bring Me The News on YouTube

However, the lawsuit says the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) continued to deny students the benefits their entitled to. 

“Too often we dismiss the rights of young people, it’s disturbing that we would do that during a public health crisis when housing and food contributions from these students are critical to family stability,” Youthprise President Wokie Weah said in a statement. “Equity and representation for all of Minnesota’s youth is critical. Unfortunately, we know the denial of these benefits is impacting low-income and racially diverse students more than others.”

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling means eligible high school students can start receiving the unemployment money they are owed, Youthprise says. KARE 11 reports the appeals court overturned an unemployment judge's previous ruling, which means up to 39 weeks of benefits could now be available for high school students. 

Youthprise says those who haven't yet applied for unemployment benefits must do so by Dec. 25. Those who have already applied don't need to reapply because the benefits are retroactive. 

This is good news for many high school students. Youthprise says in the summer of 2019, 6.6% of the state's workforce were between the ages of 16 and 19, and more than 10% of those workers reported using at least 41% of their income to help their family pay bills. 

In a statement to Bring Me The News, DEED said, "DEED has reviewed yesterday’s order from the Minnesota Court of Appeals. We are awaiting the final opinion from the court."

Previously, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said he supported legislative changes to the 1939 law, the Star Tribune reported

The latest forecast from Sven Sundgaard

Next Up


Suspect in woman's killing in Moorhead is arrested

James Kollie Jr. was arrested Friday evening.

Jennifer Carnahan

Former chair Jennifer Carnahan sues Minnesota GOP, which is suing her back

Carnahan stepped down under a cloud of controversy in August 2021.

Minneapolis Fire Department

One injured after leaping from burning vacant building in Minneapolis

Authorities say the building is known to be used by squatters.


Head-on crash leaves two drivers dead in southeastern Minnesota

The crash happened in Houston County just before 4 p.m. Friday.


Charges: Armed man made death threats at Minneapolis LGBTQ bar

The man allegedly used derogatory terms while threatening to kill someone.


FDA pulls last COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment as new variants rise

A therapy used to treat more than 11,000 Minnesotans is no longer authorized amid a surge in the latest COVID-19 variants.

Austin Robert LeClaire

Charges: Plymouth man shot girlfriend in head after birthday party

The 23-year-old victim is in critical condition as of Friday.


State announces $2.5M in grants for child care providers

Child care providers in roughly a dozen communities will receive funds to help grow the supply of affordable, quality child care.


Probe of Golden Valley police uncovers racism, alleged misconduct

One officer was terminated for alleged racist comments and violations of state law.

blowing snow

Blowing snow Friday in Minnesota; will it snow next week?

Winds could gust up to 50 mph Friday afternoon and night.

Deer hunting blaze orange

To combat CWD, late-season deer hunting announced for 9 areas of MN

The special hunts will be held between Dec. 16 and 18.


COVID levels rising in wastewater; BQ.1 now dominant

BQ.1 is the new dominant subvariant in Twin Cities wastewater.


One-dollar bill, cash, money

New unemployment applicants in MN have to follow schedule to apply

More than 200,000 Minnesota workers have applied since March 16.

One-dollar bill, cash, money

Charges: MN man stuffed bank account, got new pool with COVID relief money

Federal charges say he filed a fake loan application to secure PPP funding, which he used on himself.

albert lea high school 1

Intruder causes brief lockdown at Albert Lea High School

The 26-year-old man refused to leave the school.

Minnetonka High School 1

Students to protest inequities, racism at Minnetonka High School

The student-organized sit-in will be held Tuesday morning.

High court rules Duluth can cut benefits for retired workers

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of Duluth in a case over retirement benefit cuts. The ruling gives the city the ability to cut retiree health insurance when it's doing the same for current employees.

Dayton wants Congress to extend unemployment benefits

Mark Dayton joined more than a dozen other Democratic governors in signing a letter urging Congress to extend unemployment benefits for more than 2 million out-of-work Americans. Dayton also wants authorization for Minnesota to continue emergency state unemployment benefits.