Can Unemployment Be Denied Due to Turning Down a Job Offer?

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Each state designed its unemployment insurance program to serve as a temporary substitute for wages workers lose when they become unemployed, not as a long-term means to provide support for workers who want to avoid the workforce. Because of this, most state programs require unemployment beneficiaries to accept a job offer or lose eligibility. Workers who turn down a job offer for a job that isn’t suitable for them won’t be penalized for not accepting work, however.

Suitable Work

While workers must remain able and available for work, and must accept some job offers or lose eligibility for unemployment benefits, most states only require workers to accept a job similar to their previous one. A worker who turns down an offer in a field in which he isn’t physically qualified to perform, pays substantially lower than his original wage or is in a location distant from his home usually doesn’t risk losing eligibility for benefits. Most states evaluate suitable-work claims on a case-by-case basis, and state laws vary, so consult your local unemployment authority to determine the requirements in your state.

Wages

The wages of the offered job play a major role in determining if the job offer provided suitable work that a beneficiary should accept. Workers who are offered positions that pay significantly less than their previous job aren’t required to re-enter the workforce or lose benefits. Although laws and other guidelines that surround acceptable-pay considerations vary between states, in most areas, workers aren’t required to take positions that paid less than 70 or 75 percent of their prior earnings.

Location

A worker must only accept a job within the same area from her home in which she previously worked. Again, this is a case-by-case determination, and varies between workers. For example, a worker who was employed five miles from her home may not be penalized for declining a job offer from a business 50 miles away, while a job 50 miles away from home would be deemed suitable for worker who previously worked 45 miles from where she lived.

Job Duties and Work Conditions

Some states allow workers the flexibility to determine that job offers aren’t suitable if the offered position does not approximate their old job. For example, a construction foreman with years of experience in a supervisory role and a construction management degree might not be required to accept a job as a construction worker. Additionally, jobs that expose workers to conditions that are unusual for their profession, such as overnight shifts for an office clerk, may not be deemed a suitable replacement for a prior job.

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