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Can you refuse a job offer while on unemployment? Sometimes, under strict guidelines

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Posted at 5:59 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 18:03:02-04

TAMPA, Fla — If you want to keep your unemployment benefits, you’re not only going to have to put together a resume but send it out every week.

“It’s been difficult for me because I do want to work,” said Michelle Hernandez. “But, being eight months pregnant, having a child, and then daycare being so expensive I was like what can I do?”

It’s a legitimate question many parents have asked.

“Childcare is not being appropriately dealt with in our society,” said Ryan Barack, a labor and employment expert.

With work search requirements coming back next month for people collecting unemployment, many wonder what happens if they refuse to accept a job they applied for.

Hernandez says she couldn’t juggle her job last summer and take care of her child.

“My daughter’s daycare used to shut down like weekly because there was a parent that would have COVID or one of the kids,” she said.

And while that may not be the case now she says a minimum wage job won’t cut it, especially since she and her husband have no extended family nearby to help.

“Before me becoming a dental assistant, I was working a low wage job and my paycheck was completely for daycare,” she said.

But the DEO says if you have been on unemployment for longer than 25 weeks, a minimum wage job that is at least 120% or more of the weekly benefit amount a person gets from unemployment is considered acceptable work. The $300 weekly federal payment is not calculated into that. It means if you refuse an offer you’ll most likely lose your benefits.

“I think the most recent statement is not logical,” Barack said. “There needs to be a realization that appropriate employment is what the goal is. We don’t want people being forced to take a job that doesn’t make sense.”

Barack says employees should be able to consider things like hours, location, environment, and pay before they take a job.

That might not be the first job that is offered,” he said. “We spend a tremendous amount of our lives at the workplace and it’s important that people be valued and the employees be respected by their employers and treated as something other than just something to fill a slot.”

He says hiring just for that reason is counterintuitive.

“There is a tremendous cost associated with training a new employee,” he said.

He also believes businesses need to look at their wages and ask if they are enough.

“If we believe in a capitalist system then what should happen is employers should be paying appropriate wages to ensure they get workers who are willing to do that,” he said.

The DEO says you should apply for jobs you want and says the work search requirements can be fulfilled by going to a resume class at a local career source. Click here for more ways you can fulfill the work search requirement.

Click here for information on the work search requirements and refusal to work guidelines.

Here is the full explanation from the DEO on refusal to work guidelines:

When is a job refusal acceptable? Claimants are required to accept job offers for suitable work.

During the first 60 days a claimant collects Reemployment Assistance benefits, work will not be considered suitable if:
• it pays less than 90% of the claimant's average weekly wage during the base period, or
• it would require a material change in occupation for the claimant.

As the length of unemployment increases, offered work that may not have been suitable within the first few weeks of the claim may be considered suitable as prospects for desired work diminish.

Further, after an individual has received 25 weeks or more of Reemployment Assistance benefits in a single year, suitable work is a job that pays the minimum wage and is 120 percent or more of the weekly benefit amount the individual is drawing. The Department will take into consideration any circumstances that compromise a claimant’s health and safety.

Meanwhile, 15 republican lawmakers in the U.S. Senate, including Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, have introduced a bill that would shorten the extension of federal unemployment benefits and the amount.

The bill is called the “Get Americans Back to Work Act” and it proposes a cut to the weekly $300 benefit amount on May 31st to $150 a week. It also would stop payments completely by the end of June. Right now, benefits are supposed to go until September.