Questions about unemployment are often presented to The Job Doc. There are a full range of complex situations and circumstances that need to be evaluated individually. The best place for anyone to learn more about the services for unemployed individuals can be found on the Massachusetts Government website.
To access the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance website, visit www.mass.gov. Using the search bar on the right hand side of the home page, search the phrase “department of unemployment assistance”. Several options will appear. Click on the first option which reads “Department of Unemployment Assistance – Labor and Workforce”. Here you will find information on filing new and reopening old unemployment claims. There is also information regarding health insurance, training sessions, links to career centers, and answers to frequently asked questions.
I consulted with Judi L. Cicatiello, Director, Department of Unemployment Assistance who also encourages anyone with questions about unemployment insurance benefits to contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance TeleClaims Center at 617-626-6800.
Additionally, Judi offered her expertise on the following situations:
Q. I am a teacher who only works during the school year in a preschool. During the summer I collect unemployment for this position. If I am asked to substitute teach in another one of the classrooms running during the summer, can I still claim my unemployment? The question is what is considered "denying work"?
A. Because you were offered substitute or part-time work teaching during the summer, you can and should accept the position, especially if the position offers comparable pay. Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance law allows for a 1/3 part-time earnings disregard. For example, if your weekly benefit amount is $400.00, you can earn up to $133.00 and still receive the full benefit payment. This encourages unemployment insurance benefit recipients to accept part-time work. Every $1.00 earned over the 1/3 part-time earnings disregard, $133 in this example, results in a dollar for dollar reduction of the weekly benefit payment. If you earn $140.00 in a week, your weekly benefit amount will be reduced by $7.00 to $393.00
Unemployment Insurance benefit recipients cannot refuse suitable work. In this example, a substitute teaching position would generally be considered "suitable", especially if the pay is comparable.
Q. I have a seasonal job at a golf course and was hired to mow grass on the course. My employer is doing everything he can to stop me from collecting unemployment at the end of the golfing season. He now says he has a day or two during the winter doing maintenance and painting in a cold barn. If I do not accept the offer can I still draw unemployment?
A. Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance Law provides penalties for individuals who refuse suitable work. Every refusal of work is addressed on a case-by-case basis. Many things can make the work offered unsuitable. To be considered suitable the rate of pay must be comparable to other jobs of similar type and the work must be within the skill range of the worker. The law does allow for the payment of partial unemployment benefits to individuals who work on a part-time or occasional basis and it encourages jobless workers to accept such work while still retaining eligibility for unemployment insurance benefit payments.
Q. I have started a new job, and my new employer pays in arrears. For example my start date at the new job is September 5th, 201. I will not receive my first check until September 30th, 201. When should I stop filing unemployment?
A. Once a jobless worker begins new full-time employment, he/she is no longer eligible for unemployment insurance benefits regardless of when the employer issues payment for services rendered. Therefore, in this scenario where the work begins on Monday September 5st, the last week this formerly jobless worker is eligible for and can legally claim benefits is the previous week ending September 2nd. Because the employer must report the new employment to the Department of Unemployment Assistance, if the individual continues to collect unemployment insurance benefits after the week ending September 2nd, cross matches with the new hire databases will identify this individual as working while receiving unemployment insurance benefits and the law requires the Department of Unemployment Assistance to establish an overpayment, recoup overpaid benefits and assess additional penalties.
To get more answers on these types of questions and also on unemployment insurance benefits, contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance’s TeleClaims Center at 617-626-6800.
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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.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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