Q. I had a job I didnít like very much, and I was laid off, so it was OK. I have been collecting unemployment and looking to start a job at a place I liked. My old work called me back, and I declined because I will be starting a new job in 4 weeks. Can I still collect unemployment benefits until I start my new job?
A.While this question seemed pretty straight forward to me, I didn't find that to be the case. Unemployment determinations are made by The Division of Unemployment Assistance following the collection of information from the prior employer.
Understanding unemployment, starts as so many things do, with the concept of following the dollar. I consulted Edward T. Malmborg, Director, Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) to explain this situation. Mr. Malmborg explains: "It is important to understand that your former employer is ultimately responsible for the benefit costs associated with your claim and receives a monthly statement of charges from the Division of Unemployment Assistance. Your former employer will likely protest benefit charges for any period of time for which they were willing to provide you with work and your eligibility will need to be determined at that point."
So, the positive news of having received a recall to work is you can use that in hiring situations. Future employers will want to hear that you were asked to come back, which shows a level of confidence in your experience, capabilities, and trust on the job - even though you had been laid off. This is one of the most positive references you can have. However, because you declined to return to work, your former employer may decide to contest the payment of benefits for the four weeks until you start your new job.
Laws pertaining to unemployment are complex, and I was please to learn more from Mr. Malmborg, who goes on to explain that the Unemployment Insurance Law disqualifies most individuals who quit their jobs as well as those who refuse offers of suitable work. Whether you would be considered to have quit or to have declined an offer of potentially suitable work depends on the circumstances at the time you were originally laid-off.
If you were told that you would be recalled to work at a later date or if you have been regularly or seasonally laid-off and recalled in the past, then you would be considered to have quit your employment at the point at which you declined to return to work. If, on the other hand, you were laid-off permanently or indefinitely with no indication that you might be recalled to work, then you would be considered to have declined an offer of potentially suitable work.
If your situation is treated as if you quit work, then the law disqualifies you unless you had good cause attributable to the employer for quitting the job or had urgent, compelling, and necessitous reasons for quitting.
If the situation is treated as a possible refusal of suitable work, then the law disqualifies you if it is established that a legitimate and definite offer was made to you, including all of the pertinent details about the job (e.g., start date, schedule of hours, rate of pay, job duties, etc.) and that the job was in fact "suitable" as defined by the law. Many factors are considered when determining suitability. This refers to work which reasonably fits the individual's training and work background; does not involve harm or injury to health safety or morals, travel time, or travel expenses; has terms of employment comparable to other similar work in the community; is not open strictly because of a labor dispute; and does not require the claimant to join or quit a union. Part-time work, odd jobs, and temporary work of brief duration are not considered suitable work, according to Malmborg.
Simple question; complex answer. And what helps keep all parties informed is the understanding that DUA does not predetermine eligibility. Both the applicant and the employer have the opportunity to discuss the specifics, as they see it, and DUA makes the decision only after this fact-finding activity.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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