Ask the Lawyer: Turning Down That Job Offer Could Cost You Your Unemployment
TURNING DOWN THAT JOB OFFER COULD COST YOU YOUR UNEMPLOYMENT
QUESTION: I’m on unemployment and looking for work. Last week I received a job offer – it’s in my field, but the pay and benefits are lower than my last job. If I turn it down, can I continue to receive unemployment benefits?
ANSWER: Under Michigan law, MCL 421.29, you may turn down a job and still collect benefits during the first half of your benefit period (usually ten weeks into a 20-week period) if the work is not “suitable.”
During this period, a job is suitable if it is consistent with your training and experience, if it is located within a reasonable distance of your home, if it is safe, and if it pays at least 70 percent of the gross pay you received in your last job.
If the job for which you received an offer meets that 70 percent pay requirement and it’s a good fit with your training and experience, you may be ineligible for unemployment if you turn it down. But that’s not the end of the story: you need to do a little research before you make a decision.
Even if the pay is at least 70 percent as much as you received on your last job, if it is substantially below the average for “similar work in that locality” (Oakland County, for example), turning down the job should not cost you your unemployment benefits. And, even if the pay is adequate, if the benefits are substantially less than a worker in the field/industry in that locality would expect, you may still be able to turn the job down without losing your unemployment benefits. For example, if all businesses in your line of work area give their employees generous health insurance benefits, but the job offer you received does not provide any insurance, or only catastrophic insurance, the job may not be suitable, and you can turn it down. (Note: If the company pays well above the industry average to make up for the lack of insurance, you might be on the hook to accept the job.)
The story is a little different after you’ve used up half your approved benefits. During the second half of the benefit period, you must accept any job, whether or not it aligns with your experience or training, if it pays at least 120 percent of your weekly benefit amount, if it meets or exceeds the minimum wage (currently $8.90/hour) and if the pay is not well below the average wage for “similar work in the locality.”
No matter how long you’ve been receiving benefits, a job is unsuitable if the “position offered is vacant due directly to a strike, lockout or other labor dispute,” and if you would be required to join a union or “to resign from or refrain from joining a bona fide labor organization.”
Many of the terms used in the statute are open to interpretation. What is a “reasonable” distance? Thirty miles is probably reasonable, but what about 40? And the minimum wage of $8.90 will often result in earnings that are less than 120 percent of the weekly benefit amount (typically $362/week). Can a worker turn down a minimum wage job, where the minimum wage is the prevailing wage for similar work in that area, if the pay is less than 120 percent of worker’s weekly benefit amount of $362 ($434)? When dealing with the Unemployment Insurance Agency, it is best to err on the side of caution.
To ensure you have up-to-date information on your rights as an unemployed worker, you may wish to consult an attorney. The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at www.gwinntauriainenlaw.com.
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GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC, is a Troy based law firm representing clients from Warren, Sterling Heights, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Oakland and Wayne Counties and all of Southeast Michigan
ASK THE LAWYER
By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3310 facsimile