What is Suitable Work Other Than a Conditional Unemployment Eligibility Reason Used to Deny Benefits?

Suitable Work (SW) may be different for you, than it is for me, but because it's a conditional eligibility issue that may bite the most reasonable unemployed people .. to understand how it becomes an issue led to why lots of people ask me questions and the  answers, related to explaining the issue of SW.

Recently, while speaking to a person about another appeal issue, located in a state that frequently is causes a post of a news article to my facebook page, the person said they had been told they must accept any offer of work.  I of course asked .. what, no mention a job offer also needs to be for SW?  

I can be cynical, but I was outraged when they said ..no, they said ANY offer had to be accepted.   

Pardon me .. I nearly just climbed up on my soapbox, to rant about what state agencies do .. to not fully inform people, when all I'm trying to do, is show you where to go to sort through the differences between suitable and unsuitable offers of work .. for the sake of keeping benefits intact and unflagged.

The word suitable, is plastered all over state unemployment laws for a couple of good reasons.

  1. The USDOL explains SW is a consideration for employees before and after becoming unemployed by providing criteria that matters to make a job, or an offer of work suitable, or unsuitable.
  2. Most other good reasons would be people who get the harebrained notion, collecting unemployment benefits is a government subsidy to allow them to detach themselves, or just go on break from the labor market for the duration ..or until they exhaust their claim balance and have to find another job.  

The fact is, regular unemployment insurance benefits can only be paid for weeks you certify, under penalty of perjury, that you are otherwise conditionally eligible to collect, whether you are totally, or partially unemployed.

So what types of questions do all states ask an unemployed person, to certify they are conditionally eligible to continue on getting a weekly benefit amount.

  • Were you able and available to work?
  • Did you begin school, or training?
  • Did you accept, or refuse an offer of suitable work?
  • Did you comply with the mandatory/minimum number of job searching contacts? (A job search log form may be provided by the state within your claimant handbook.  Keeping a log of job seeking contacts is useful if you need documented proof/evidence if subjected to a "random" job search audit by the department.

Job Offers From an Employer In Lieu of Being Laid Off

When learning you may be  laid off for a lack of work, there can be a risk you can get caught up in the conditional issue of suitability of a job offer made by your employer in lieu of being laid off.

The criteria for  suitable work and even what constitutes a bona fide offer of work should be considered before you accept a job that may not meet one, or more of the relative conditions of SW.   

Should you Accept or Decline a Job Offer

Finding Suitable Work Include Some Idea of What Makes a Job Unsuitable for You .. Specific to Criteria Used

The following criteria is located in the USDOL's chart book for non-monetary eligibility.  If you use ctrl+f, you can easily locate all 82 instances of suitable and unsuitable work in the discussions and footnotes below the charts covering all state UI laws.

Criteria for Suitable Work—All states look at whether the work refused was suitable. When state laws list the criteria for suitability, they usually address the degree of risk to an individual’s health, safety, and morals; the individual’s physical fitness, prior training, experience, and earnings; the length of unemployment and prospects for securing local work in a customary occupation; and the distance of the available work from the individual’s residence. Delaware and New York make no reference to the suitability of work offered but provide for disqualification for refusals of work for which an individual is reasonably fitted. South Carolina specifies that whether work is suitable must be based on a standard of reasonableness as it relates to the particular individual involved.

Distance—In Alabama and West Virginia, no work is unsuitable because of distance if it is in substantially the same locality as the last regular employment which the individual left voluntarily without good cause connected with the employment. In Indiana, work under substantially the same terms and conditions under which the individual was employed by a base-period employer, which is within the individual’s prior training, experience, and physical capacity to perform, is suitable work unless a bona fide change in residence makes such work unsuitable because of the distance involved. Delaware, New York, and Ohio provide that no refusal to accept employment shall be disqualifying if it is at an unreasonable distance from the individual’s residence or the expense of travel to and from work is substantially greater than that in the former employment, unless provision is made for such expense.

Personal/Family Reasons—Maine does not impose a disqualification for refusal of suitable work if an individual refuses a position on a shift, the greater part of which falls between midnight and 5 a.m., and the individual is prevented from accepting the job because of family obligations. Maine excludes from suitable work a job the individual previously vacated if the reasons for leaving have not been removed or changed; in addition, if an individual has refused work for a necessitous and compelling reason, the disqualification will be terminated when the individual is again able and available for work.  New Hampshire does not disqualify an individual who is unable to accept or unavailable for suitable, permanent full-time work in a given shift if the individual is the only available adult to care for an ill, infirm, or physically or mentally disabled family member. In addition, New Hampshire does not impose a disqualification for refusing to accept new work if the individual is unable to accept work during the hours of a particular shift because of the family obligations previously described.  Wisconsin does not disqualify an individual who accepts work that could have been refused with good cause and then terminates with good cause within 10 weeks after starting the job.  

Connecticut does not deem work suitable if, as a condition of being employed, the individual would be required to agree not to leave the position if recalled by his or her previous employer.  In Louisiana, an individual may refuse work if the remuneration from the employer is below 60 percent of the individual’s highest rate of pay in the base period.

In Wisconsin, an individual has good cause during the first six weeks of unemployment for refusing work at a lower grade of skill or significantly lower rate of pay than one or more recent jobs.

New Hampshire requires that for work to be deemed suitable, the hourly rate when multiplied by 40 must be equal to or greater than 150 percent of the individual’s weekly benefit amount.

Union/Collective Bargaining Issues—Ohio and New York do not consider suitable any work that an individual is not required to accept pursuant to a labor-management agreement. Illinois does not disqualify an individual for refusing new work if the position offered is a transfer to other work offered to the individual by the employing unit under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement or pursuant to an established employer plan, program, or policy, when the acceptance of such other work by the individual would require the separation from that work of another individual currently performing it. Iowa does not disqualify an individual for failure to apply for or accept suitable work if the individual left work in lieu of exercising a right to bump or oust an employee with less seniority. In Oregon, an individual will not be disqualified for refusal of suitable work if the employer unilaterally modified the amount of wages agreed upon by the individual’s collective bargaining unit and the employer. In Pennsylvania, an individual will not be disqualified for refusal of suitable work when the work is offered by his or her employer, and the individual is not required to accept the offer pursuant to terms of a union contract, agreement, or an established employer plan, program, or policy. In New York, an individual not subject to recall or who did not obtain employment through a union hall and is still unemployed after receiving 10 weeks of benefits is required to accept employment that the individual is capable of doing, provided the employment would result in a quarterly wage not less than 80 percent of the high quarter in the base period or the wages prevailing for similar work in the locality, whichever is less. 

Drug Testing Issues—In Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee, an individual is considered to have refused an offer of suitable work if an employer withdraws an offer of work after the individual tests positive for drugs after a drug test given on behalf of the prospective employer as a condition of an offer of employment, or if the individual refuses, without good cause, to submit to a drug test required by the prospective employer as a condition of an offer of employment. 

Duration of Unemployment—A few states provide for changing the definition of suitable work as the duration of the individual’s unemployment grows. The suitability of the offered wage is the factor states have chosen to alter. For example, Florida requires the agency, in developing rules to determine the suitability of work, to consider the duration of the individual’s unemployment and the wage rates available. In addition, Florida law specifies that, after an individual has received 25 weeks of benefits in a single year, suitable work will be a job that pays the minimum wage and is 120 percent or more of the individual’s weekly benefit amount. Idaho law merely requires individuals to be willing to expand their job search beyond their normal trade or occupation and to accept work at a lower rate of pay to remain eligible for benefits as the length of their unemployment grows. Louisiana will not disqualify an individual for refusing suitable work if the offered work pays less than 60 percent of the individual’s highest rate of pay in the base period. Utah considers all earnings in the base year, not just earnings from the most recent employer, in the determination of suitable work and specifies that the agency will be more prone to consider work suitable the longer the individual is unemployed and less likely to secure local work in his or her customary occupation. Wyoming applies the refusal-of-suitable work disqualification if, after 4 weeks of unemployment, the individual fails to apply for and accept suitable work other than in his or her customary occupation offering at least 50 percent of the compensation earned in his or her previous occupation. Georgia specifies that, after an individual has received 10 weeks of benefits, no work will be considered unsuitable if it pays wages equal to at least 66 percent of the individual’s highest quarter earnings in the base period and is at least equal to the Federal or state minimum wage. Iowa law specifies that work is suitable if it meets the other criteria in the law and the gross weekly wage of the offered work bears the following relationship to the individual’s high-quarter average weekly wage: 1) 100 percent during the first 5 weeks of unemployment; 2) 75 percent from the 6th through the 12th week of unemployment; 3) 70 percent from the 13th through the 18th week of unemployment; and 4) 65 percent after the 18th week of unemployment. No individual, however, is required to accept a job paying below the Federal minimum wage. Similarly, in Tennessee, work is considered suitable if the wages equal or exceed the average weekly wage in the individual’s highest base period quarter according to the following criteria: 1) 100 percent during the first 13 weeks of unemployment; 2) 75 percent from the 14th through the 25th week of unemployment; 3) 70 percent from the 26th through the 38th week of unemployment; and 4) 65 percent after the 38th week of unemployment. Wages must equal the Federal minimum wage to be considered suitable work. After 10 weeks of unemployment, Maine no longer considers the individual’s prior wage in determining whether work is suitable. In Michigan, an individual will be denied benefits for refusing an offer of suitable work paying at least 70 percent of the gross pay rate received immediately before becoming unemployed. After 8 weeks of unemployment, Mississippi law specifies that work is suitable if the offered employment pays the minimum wage or higher and the wage is that prevailing for the individual’s customary occupation or similar work in the locality. Montana, after 13 weeks of unemployment, specifies that a suitable work offer need only include wages equal to 75 percent of the individual’s earnings in his or her previous customary insured work, but not less than the Federal minimum wage. After 10 weeks of unemployment, North Carolina considers any employment offer paying 120 percent of the individual’s weekly benefit amount to be suitable work. North Dakota law specifies that after an individual has received 18 weeks of benefits, suitable work will be any work that pays wages equal to the maximum weekly benefit amount, providing that consideration is given to the degree of risk involved to the individual’s health, safety, morals, and physical fitness, and the distance of the work from his or her residence. In Michigan, after an individual has received 50 percent of his or her benefit entitlement for the year, work will not be considered unsuitable because it is outside the individual’s training or experience, or because of pay rate as long as the pay rate meets or exceeds the minimum wage, is at least the prevailing mean wage for similar work in the locality, and the pay rate is 120 percent or more of the individual’s weekly benefit amount.

Period of Disqualification—Some states disqualify for a specified number of weeks (3 to 20) any individual who refuses suitable work; others postpone benefits for a variable number of weeks, with the maximum ranging from 1 to 17. More than half of the states disqualify, for the duration of the unemployment or longer, individuals who refuse suitable work. Most of these states specify an amount that the individual must earn or a period of time the individual must work to remove the disqualification. The relationship between availability for work and refusal of suitable work is explained in the discussion of availability earlier in this chapter. Wisconsin’s provisions for suitable work recognize this relationship by stating: “If the commission determines that . . . a failure to accept suitable work has occurred with good cause, but that the employee is unable to work or unavailable for work, he shall be ineligible for the week in which such failure occurred and while such inability or unavailability continues.” Of the states that reduce potential benefits for refusal of suitable work, the majority provide for reduction by an amount equal to the number of weeks of benefits postponed. 

When Suitable Work is From a Temp Staffing Agency

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