if the job that laid me off wants to bring me back, can I decline and still collect unemployment?

I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately like this one:

I’ve been laid off for the past three weeks, and now my employer has asked me to return. Legally, do I have to accept? And if I don’t accept, will that give me a problem filling for unemployment?

I want to move on from them as I don’t see it being a fit for me anymore. I left a job of eight years to go work for them and I believe I made a mistake in doing so. I just want to make sure I do it correctly so I can collect unemployment while I look for a new job.

Yes, the rules on unemployment benefits require you to accept if the job you were laid off from offers you the job back. You can decline to return if you want, but you’d lose your eligibility for unemployment.

Unemployment insurance (UI) isn’t there to pad your departure-by-choice from a job you no longer want. It’s an emergency safety net to help keep you afloat if you lose your job. If the job comes back (as many jobs will be doing in these days of temporary layoffs), legally you can’t turn it down and continue collecting benefits just because you prefer your current situation.

I’m getting this same question from people who got laid off, began collecting UI, and have now been offered their old job back at their old salary — which is less than what they’re making through UI because of the new $600/week federal supplement. But it’s the same thing — if they turn down the offer to return to the old job, they’ll lose their eligibility for unemployment benefits.

In general when you’re collecting UI, you’ll lose your eligibility if you turn down suitable work. Different states define “suitable work” differently, but generally it means a job that offers pay comparable to what you’ve earned recently and work that corresponds to your education level and previous work experience. The job you held right before filling for UI is going to qualify as suitable.

I checked in with the UI worker who offered advice here last month to confirm all this and she wrote:

“Yes, you are correct — if someone refuses suitable work, then they will be denied benefits. However, if they do not report that they were offered work, then UI may not know about it and they may still be able to collect benefits. However, employers can, and should, report to UI that they offered work to these (former) employees, and UI will catch it at that time. If it turns out that a claimant falsified their claim (by not reporting an offer of work), it could be considered fraud, and not only would they need to pay back the payments they shouldn’t have gotten, but there could be additional fees and penalties they would be required to pay as well.

So theoretically, claimants COULD get away with it (I’m sure some will), but it’s certainly risky. … UI isn’t meant to replace your income, or to be your consistent source of income. It’s meant to help you get by until you can find work. I know these are unprecedented times, but that should still be the goal.”

{ 267 comments… read them below }

  1. I Love Llamas*

    As a note of caution, I would also add that with over 20 million unemployed, perhaps the “devil you know” job today is better than being in a super competitive job market. You can still look for another job, but without pressure. Good luck!

      1. Threeve*

        Also consider: if you’re offered your old job back, a single HR manager is not the only one who is going to know about it. Tensions and resentments are running high as hell right now, and if a coworker or boss decides you’re gaming the system it could be a huge blow to your reputation and employability.

        1. Rosalita*

          I know of someone who asked to be laid off so they could collect the extra $600 and instead their boss fired them.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              Eh, I don’t necessarily see a problem with it, depending on the type of job and the person asking. A friend of mine owns a food truck. She’s been busting her ass to keep her employees employed, and they asked her the same thing. Most of them are single moms and can use all the help they can get. She told them she’d be willing to do it, but they had to be willing to be without any pay for a month because that’s how long it’s taking people to get their benefits processed.

              The fact that so many people are willing to be laid off to get the extra money just tells me that too many people are underpaid.

              1. Goldenrod*

                “The fact that so many people are willing to be laid off to get the extra money just tells me that too many people are underpaid.”

                I agree with this!

                1. IT bad guy*

                  Why does it mean they are underpaid? I don’t understand the immediate correlation that someone wanting an extra $600 a week and not working compared to working and NOT getting that free money means that the employer is bad.

                2. Anonapots*

                  Because, IT bad guy, the whole underpinning of capitalism is to pay the workers as little as possible for as much work as possible, based on the fact that human beings prefer to be productive at something. And the underpinning of capitalism in the US is service jobs that are notoriously low-paying because they’re seen as unskilled labor. Good employers are still working within a capitalist system that favors exploitation of the worker over equality. And very few employers are objectively good.

                  The point being that, yes, there are probably a few people out there who might want an extended break with some extra pay, but that pay only lasts four months and it’s a little different to collect extra money when you can spend it freely. Right now you can’t, so the enticement is a bit lower.

                3. Jessen*

                  IT bad guy, the thing is that the extra 600 a week only comes out ahead for a few people. Unemployment doesn’t pay your full former salary. It varies exactly what percentage it pays by state, but only those who are fairly low paid will the extra $600 work out to more than what they’d be making at work. And that’s what people are saying – that 50% or 75% of their income plus $600 a week is higher than what they make working full time.

                4. Wired Wolf*

                  Exactly. I read an article with a coffeeshop owner who was complaining about the supplemental UI (same old saw “they get paid more not to work”). A commentor pointed out that the extra works out to $15/hour for most low-wage jobs…what these jobs should be paying in the first place and especially now for those who are risking their lives to come to work.

                  Am I making a little more on UI now? Yes. Will I go back to my job? Yes; even though we’re all fed up with a particular stupidvisor the team is family.

                5. Emily S*

                  What was said above, plus – it’s a temporary extra payment. If you compare two hypothetical situations where getting the extra $600 works out to more than the usual salary, one in a world where the usual salary is a sufficient living wage and one in a world where the usual salary is below living wage, the person who makes a living wage now is more likely to decide that making their current salary in a stable job would be better than making a little bit more for a few months and then having to find a new income entirely and likely struggle during that search/transition time. Your current salary has value as a predictable source of income that gives you stability. But if the current salary is already not enough and you’re already struggling, then a temporary reprieve where you get time off and a little bit more money is going to look relatively more attractive, because your current salary is not providing much value as a predictable source of income that gives you stability.

                  Think of this as an analogy: Say you have a data plan at a good rate from your cell phone provider. Someone tells you that you can have unlimited data at no extra cost for the next 4 months, but at the end of the 4 months you’ll have to pay whatever the market rate is for data at that time, even if it’s more than what you’re currently paying. You’ll hesitate, because your current plan is not unaffordable, and you’re not sure it’s worth risking future payments being higher just for 4 months of unlimited data. On the other hand, if you’re paying at a high rate for a prepaid data plan for people with poor credit, 4 months of unlimited sounds great, and at the end of 4 months you’re, well, back where you were before, in a crappy rate, but at least for a while you weren’t!

                6. K.*

                  @Jessen and others on this thread: I would wager that the $600 plus your state unemployment (because unemployment right now is not just the $600) ends up being much higher than most people’s current income–not just a few. I am a public school teacher in a state where teacher pay is lower than a lot of states (but not at the bottom). I have a PhD. and ten years of teaching experience. I would make 10% more on unemployment right now than teaching. Obviously, I’d rather have the long-term job than the short-term raise, but many Americans have pretty low salaries where current unemployment rates would mean a huge raise. I’m not taking issue with the current rate, but I do think it causes some problems–but only because so many people were underpaid.

              2. Batgirl*

                It’s a crazily low amount of money. It’s super depressing that people are saying its enough to outpace what their job offers long term

          1. Aquawoman*

            I’m torn between despairing at the ethics of people who do that and despairing that people’s pay is so low that it’s profitable to do that.

            1. sunny-dee*

              It’s not profitable for most people. UI pays 75% of your paycheck. If you are earning $30k or so (accounting for taxes), UI + $600 would be break even. If you’re making less, you come out ahead; more and you’re still in the whole.

              However, with UI you’re not working. And not working while getting paid can be very very appealing (especially if your job sucks or your commute sucks or you’ve been stressed and couldn’t take a break).

              1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

                In my state, 30k would result in a UI of about $300 per week plus the extra $600 per week, which puts you at $900 a week or 46K a year. That is a significant bump and definitely not break even.

              2. Xarcady*

                My state pays unemployment at 50% of what you earned. In some states it is even less than that. And some states have very low maximum benefits. I think Florida pays out $275/week, max. That plus $600 is a lot more than the average minimum wage worker gets paid.

                1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

                  $275 if you can navigate the irretrievably broken system, and you pay income taxes on that. For 13 weeks. Total for the year.

                  Yeah… But hey, we get paid in sunshine in the Sunshine State!

              3. anny o'mouse*

                UI does not pay 75% of your paycheck? At least not here in Missouri I was laid a few years ago from a $75K/yr job and was given $220 a week plus had to pay taxes on that.

                1. LQ*

                  It varies by state. But I don’t know a lot of states that are 75% (I can’t think of any actually), mostly it’s 50% up to a certain amount. Plus the $600.

              4. Princess Zelda*

                In Arizona, the cap is $240/week, so $960/month — it’s less than what I’m getting being paid $15/hour, half-time. It’d be enough for me to make rent and not much else, and my rent is artificially low; market for a 1b apartment in my neighborhood is about $1000-$1200. (And since I’m making more than the cap, I’m not getting any of that extra $600, either — I filed when I lost Job2 hoping that it would help, but it will not.)

              5. John Thurman*

                $600/wk × 52 = $31200 yearly
                I think actually the boosted unemployment is more than the salary of the median American.

                1. Róisín*

                  Yeah, that’s more than I make in a year for sure. Last year I made about $20k, and I’ve changed jobs this year but I make somewhere in the vicinity of $350-400 per week. $600/wk is like 150% of what I live on.

              6. Zombeyonce*

                It’s not just the not working. It doesn’t apply as much now, but during regular times, a lot of people have to pay for childcare, so a massive amount of their salary goes toward that cost. If they are receiving UI and their kids are in a non-permanent childcare situation (babysitter or a program where they don’t have to attend regularly to hold a spot), suddenly they aren’t struggling nearly as much as they were before. I wouldn’t look down on anyone in that situation asking to be laid off.

              7. ...*

                I think your math might be a little off there. $600 a week alone is 15/hr which is just slightly over 30k a year.

              8. Minnesota Person*

                I make $60,000 in Minnesota. My weekly wages are about $1150; take home (before deductions) is about $600.

                My weekly benefit in Minnesota is $550 + $600 federal, which means I’d be making $1100/wk. Some states are quite generous.

          2. Potatoes gonna potate*

            Isn’t it the same in terms of collecting UI? I know in NY you can collect whether its laid off or fired unless you were fired for something super shady or violent. I was laid off and my HR specifically encouraged me to apply for UI.

              1. Annony*

                You can argue it though if you were fired. I’m not sure that firing someone for asking to be laid off would really count as just cause.

                1. doreen*

                  The problem with that is I’m not 100% sure that asking to be laid- off wouldn’t be seen as either 1) quitting or 2) asking your employer to help you engage in a fraud (since apparently the employer had no plans to lay off the person who asked) which would absolutely make you ineligible for UI. I personally wouldn’t take the chance.

                2. Anonapots*

                  @doreen I think you’re right. If an employer asked people to take voluntary furlough or lay-off, I think you would be in the clear. But if your employer had no intentions of laying anyone off and did so because you asked, you would definitely be on much shakier ground.

              2. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

                The only time I ever collected UI it was after being fired for a no-call no-show while working at a warehouse, and the HR guy who informed me encouraged me to get it. (The policy had only recently been amended to instant termination instead of a certain number of attendance points, and I didn’t call because I slept in on the one day of my vacation that hadn’t been approved, right in the middle of my trip. If not for the policy change I would’ve been fine).

              3. Emily S*

                It varies a little bit by state. In most states you are only ineligible if you were fired for gross misconduct or negligence. Being fired for run of the mill bad performance doesn’t prohibit someone from collecting in most, but not all, states.

            1. LJay*

              This. This was awhile back now, but in NJ my dad was fired and was still able to collect unemployment.

              I’m not sure what the official distinction was. But he was told by the unemployement office that as long as you were fired for something like poor job performance, and not something egregious like stealing or hitting someone, that you were able to collect unemployment.

            2. Mhoops*

              I got unemployment in ny for quitting with cause (discrimination). That win was the best after what they put me through.

            1. Anonapots*

              Yes. It sounds like the boss fired the person for ethical concerns due to the person asking to be laid off to collect UI +$600.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                The boss can call it being fired for cause, and if asked the boss can say the employee is not eligible for being rehired. But I don’t know that the person was being unethical they were honest about what they wanted, they were stupid in my opinion. I don’t think that the UI office would consider asking to be laid off an egregious enough action to justify not giving someone benefits. Saying could you please lay me off is not the same as resigning. Giving up a job to collect an extra $600 in unemployment for 4 months and then having to contend with trying to find a job along with 6+ million people seems like a very very risky move to me.

                I think it would be fraud if the person asked the boss to officially lay them off, but then offer to keep working under the table to keep getting paid and then collecting UI benefits. But asking to be actually fully laid off to collect UI benefits does not seem like fraud any more than when companies allow someone to quit instead of being fired.

                1. doreen*

                  All of that assumes that the employer is willing to say that the person was laid off. Sure, if the employer is willing to say that, no problem. But this boss wasn’t willing to say that – in the original post it says they “asked to be laid off so they could collect the extra $600 and instead their boss fired them. ” Unemployment doesn’t just ask if someone is eligible for rehire, they ask exactly why the person was fired. This boss is going to tell the truth and I wouldn’t bet my mortgage payment that I would get unemployment under those circumstances. Plus, the employee is certainly not going to tell the truth on the unemployment application.

          3. Rosalita*

            The person in question would only get an extra $100 maybe $200 or so a week. They wanted to be laid off so they didnt have to work. Their boss had told anyone who was worried about the virus and getting sick to let him know their concerns andthey could be laid off or take vaca/sick time without any issues. This person actually told their boss they wanted to be laid off because they didnt feel like working.

    1. Viette*

      Yes, extremely this!! UI runs out a certain point, and I don’t want to be super doom and gloom about this, but the job market is terrible and getting much worse. Unless your previous job was absolute torture, you’re probably better off drawing a paycheck, and improving your chances of being hired because you’re employed, for however long it takes to get a new job.

      Look at it this way: if you get a new job in a month, then you don’t have to work at your sucky old job for very long, so it’s not that bad! And if you don’t get a new job for over a year, then you’ll be really glad you got paid during that year.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        This is the sh*t that’s terrifying me. I was laid off and the fact that the market is getting way worse terrifies me to no end. UI will only last so long.

        1. Anonapots*

          I suspect they’ll have to put some things in place like they did during the 2008 recession. During that time, they extended your benefits in six month increments and that lasted for years. I was laid off in 2011 and I was able to collect benefits for about a year because the market was so tight.

          1. LQ*

            Yeah I’m assuming they’ll do more extensions. The PEUC extension that’s out there now will cover people who are laid off now and run out in 6 months through the end of the year. They are already talking about additional extensions. I wouldn’t want to bank on that and unemployment rules will change as for what you have to look for and accept for work. But I do expect there will be more extensions.

          2. Potatoes gonna potate*

            That’s interesting, I actually didn’t know that. I graduated college in 09 so I didn’t have much work experience. My first time getting UI was in 2013 after I had a couple of PT/seasonal jobs.

            It’s a small comfort but today I read that my state’s UI fund is defunct.

    2. Cat*

      Sooooo glad this is the first response since we can’t upvote things to the top.

      Yes, yes, a million times yes, better the devil you know than the one you don’t. Also, if your company was in a position to layoff staff 3 weeks ago, I can’t imagine you’d be going back to 50-hour weeks of wall-to-wall work. You’re probably going to have downtime and/or low-stress days that will make a continued job search less tedious than in normal times.

    3. Aphrodite*

      Plus, of course, July 1 isn’t that far away. That’s the date that $600/week goes away.

    4. Dale B*

      I was just informed by my supervisor that we will be returning to work on May 4th, but I thought the Governor of Oregon said we will not be able to return until more testing can be done. Then we still have to maintain the social distancing. I do not see how we can do that where I work, as there are 3 – 6 people inside a small trailer working all day together.

      Anyone know if this is right, or should we listen to the Governor and wait for her to lift restrictions?

  2. Follow-Up Question*

    What if your previous employer offers you your job back, but at a much lower salary? This hasn’t happened to me, but I anticipate it might. I was laid off with no severance or PTO pay-out, and don’t want to go back to this employer if they offer me a decreased salary. If I *have* to go back to them, can I negotiate?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There are rules about how much your job offer has to be, salary wise. They don’t expect you to take whatever job is shoved at you at whatever rate. So if it’s drastically lower, you may be protected. But again, you’d want to ask your state UI about that before you actually refused, it’s going to depend on the state laws.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I don’t think they could, say cut a $60,000 year salary down to $10/hour wage and force you to take it or lose unemployment. I’d suspect it might be something like 10% or 15% depending on the state. And some states are more UI-friendly than others.

        However, these rules vary with the UI extension package. The longer you’re unemployed, the more you’re expected to accept most work, plus prove your job search efforts.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          We had a letter just this week from someone being asked to take a 30% pay cut. That is beyond the percentage that most people are saving, and I’d hope it’s something the UI ofice would see as unreasonable.

    2. SDSmith82*

      My understanding (at least in California) is that you have to be offered the same pay, or you could qualify for reduced hour/wage benefits on unemployment. I could be wrong- but that’s how I understand it.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Damn. In NY I think you have to accept a job as low as 80% of your previous salary. .

        1. Rachel in NYC*

          I think that is after 10 weeks. This is from the state’s DOL website (https://labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/work-search.shtm)

          “After you have claimed 10 full weeks of benefits, suitable work also includes:

          Such work must pay at least 80% of your high-quarter base-period wages. Any work offered must pay the prevailing wage for such work.

          And i think that is only b/c 10 weeks is the magic date in NY when they start to say- you have accept a job, you can’t keep looking for your dream job that is a 10 minute commute away and pays what you used to make.

      2. LQ*

        Part of this is how they word it. You COULD qualify for benefits if you are reduced. That is not a 100% gaurentee that you will get it if you are reduced by 5%. And in general while the state laws need to be followed, something that is a federal element is that you have to take the labor market into consideration. (now some states will “consider” and then dismiss…) So that means if lots of companies are cutting salaries, you’ll be more likely to be expected to take it if you have a cut.

        “Could qualify” does not mean “will qualify” I see this a lot with reduced hours and reduced pay. While some are eligible, many are not. If you are still working full time (other than the rare TRA/Shared Work programs) you will not be eligible.

        1. SDSmith82*

          And that’s why I worded it the way I did-

          Could doesn’t mean will. For some reason my family thinks I’m the “expert” in these things- so I find my self saying just because something “could” qualify doesn’t mean it “will” all the time.

          Somehow my family has translated the fact that I work in insurance and know how to read “legal stuff” into “you know how all this unemployment stuff works, right?”. The answer of course is no. I have no idea. I’m not HR, and don’t ever want to be.

    3. Mel_05*

      Depends on your state. In Indiana it would need to be within 90% of what you were making previously – at least during the first few months of unemployment (6 I think), then it drops to 80% and so on until you’ve used up all your benefits anyway.

      Depending on *how* much less you were making, you might still get some unemployment benefits even if you took the job at the lower wage, but I don’t think it would amount to much.

    4. Oh No She Di'int*

      I don’t know about UI rules and lower salaries, but I do know one basic rule about life: negotiating things (like salaries, prices, fees, etc.) is almost always an option. And is certainly an option much more than people realize. So though you may not succeed, yes, you can and should always make an attempt at negotiation.

      1. Anonapots*

        As we head into the job market over the next year or two, negotiation is going to be more difficult. That doesn’t mean don’t do it, but understand that the market is going to swing significantly into the employers’ favor for a good long time, so your leverage is not as strong as it was.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “the market is going to swing significantly into the employers’ favor for a good long time,”

          How so? People aren’t unemployed because of actual job shortage, people are unemployed because many millions of jobs aren’t available right now This shortage is temporary. Once those jobs are available again, I don’t see the supply/demand of workers/jobs being that bad for most workers.

          Yeah, at the beginning employers are going to be stupid because they think they have the advantage but after that first wave of hiring they’ll be scrambling to hire the best candidate before the other competing businesses get to them because it will be millions of unemployed people and millions of jobs.

          1. Lizzo*

            In addition, it will be interesting to see which companies embrace remote work as part of their normal culture once business has resumed and we’re living in the “new normal”. Companies that can hire talent without geographic restrictions will get the best talent.

          2. TechWorker*

            The shortage might be a bit less temporary if companies go under or long term decide to manage on way fewer staff though. Some companies are still making ‘normal’ money right now but lots aren’t. I don’t think it’s a guarantee that they’ll all be able to spring back to their ‘normal’ headcount.

          3. Super Happy Fun Time*

            Ego, people aren’t unemployed right now because of a job shortage, but because so many people are unemployed, they will spend less to account for the reduction in income this year, and those that continue to be employed will spend more conservatively in response to perceived or actual lack of job security. Less spending will result in less jobs – we could fully re-open the economy tomorrow and there would still be a dramatic drop in tourism and many other industries that are driven by discretionary spending, which will result in less jobs in those industries (not only from less work available, but also from employers tightening their budgets to ensure their businesses have stability through the next few years). Less jobs in any number of industries means more competition for available jobs (with some exceptions, of course). More competition means employers are likely to have more high-quality candidates vying for less positions, and those candidates will be willing to accept a lower salary, when the alternative is to not have a job at all. It’s unfortunate (and terrifying), but the reality is that, although some of this is temporary, such a large-scale disruption to the work-force is going to have long-term consequences for many.

            1. pamela voorhees*

              In addition to all of this, which was said much more eloquently than I could, some places won’t get rent relief and will be forced to close even though the shortage is only temporary. I’ve been answering “what will you do first?” with “go back to my salon to get my roots touched up and get a cut and cry about how much I missed them” which is a boat I think a lot of people are in, but one of our local salons just had to close permanently because they couldn’t make rent. A lot of restaurants might go the same way (40% in our area are expected to close and not reopen).

    5. a good mouse*

      That’s super shitty. It sounds like they did it to take a break and reset the PTO books. It seems like they should need to at least reinstate your PTO if they wanted you back.

  3. Sunflower*

    Optics wise, I’ll just say that this isn’t the same thing as job searching, giving notice and then coming back to a job so I wouldn’t compare it to that situation. Just because they’ve reinstated your job doesn’t mean you are making some sort of non-verbal commitment to the job/company.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Optics-wise, from a hypothetical future employer’s view, it would be much better to go back, IMO. If I heard this story–employee worked for 8 years, gets a 3-week layoff during a jobs crisis and pandemic, doesn’t want to come back for the primary reason of now thinking the 8-year old decision to take this job was a mistake and she would rather look for something else while receiving a taxpayer-funded UI benefit. . .while also potentially losing medical benefits during a pandemic–I would not think that this person made a great decision here.

      Now, if the company cut her salary, hours, and benefits to return, or there was a medical reason to not return, sure, I would consider those factors, but the story as laid out here sounds a little self-centered.

      1. Colette*

        It sounds like the OP hasn’t been at this job for long – the job she left for this job is the one she’d been at for 8 years.

      2. Myrin*

        I think you misread the 8-year-thing – OP says she “left a job of eight years to go work for them and I believe I made a mistake in doing so”.
        If I’m reading this correctly, OP worked at Tiny Teapots for eight years and left there to come work at Teapots United. So Teapots United is her current employer which laid her off and now wants her to come back on board again (and it sounds like OP regrets ever leaving Tiny Teapots, but that’s neither here nor there for this situation).

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Got it – my bad. That makes some difference. I read it as if she had been stewing about leaving the first job for nearly a decade, but if she’s only been at this job more recently, then I’d have more leeway in considering whether now is a bad time to leave it. I still wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s more likely she might have made a move soon anyway and now COVID is just getting in the way of a change that she was already considering.

    1. Smithy*

      This is where I fall on this one.

      Ethics aside – this is a kind of fraud that I would just not risk. Not that I’d encourage abusing UI during “normal” times, but during such a highly charged period of time – I think that there will be more of an emphasis on reporting abuse but also the optics around being caught are a lot less likely to be seen sympathetically.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Interestingly, I took Quill to mean, “I would not risk it *financially*” – as in, because who knows where the economy will be in a month / three months / six months, and someone who turns down employment could be unemployed for a lot longer than they’re anticipating, and/or the federal UI benefits are uncertain enough (certainly they’re taking long enough to come in!) that you’d be turning down at some some stable income.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I always tell people who even think “how can I just get insurance pay for me not to do something I just don’t want to”, you’re most likely edging towards fraud territory. Insurances of all kinds aren’t there for whims. Insurance doesn’t like paying you. It wants any reason not to pay you! So if you have a reason they wouldn’t pay you, most likely that means you aren’t eligible for it and they will want their money back if they found out they paid you when they shouldn’t have had to.

    Please just go back to work and start pounding the dirt to finding a new place. The unemployment system is overwhelmed and crumbling right now. People going back to work and removing themselves from that system will benefit people who aren’t as lucky to have their jobs open up again so soon.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      People going back to work and removing themselves from that system will benefit people who aren’t as lucky to have their jobs open up again so soon.

      This is a really good point! Every little bit of stress taken off those systems will really help. I’ve known some people who have gone a month without money because the systems are so backlogged.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, I was coming here to try to say something like this, and you phrased it better than I would have.

    2. Willis*

      All of this so much, but esp the second paragraph. If not working over the last few weeks while having UI had happened to help the OP find a new job, then great. But it’s pretty crappy to essentially abuse the system because you don’t like the choice you made in taking that job. Go back to work and continue looking for a new job like you would regularly.

    3. Marny*

      People seeing these types of situations as a way to try to get paid to not work and pad their bank accounts while they look for a job they like better is why we can’t have nice things.

  5. Rebecca*

    Thanks for posting this. I’m in PA, and I saw our governor’s remarks yesterday during our daily briefing. One of the questions was from a business owner who asked what can be done if a furloughed employee won’t come back because they’re getting more with the +$600/week on top of unemployment, can their unemployment be revoked? Our governor said no, it can’t be revoked, and that the business owners should pay their employees more to avoid this problem. I couldn’t believe I heard that right. I was like, whoa, that’s really a bit tone deaf. I’m sure there are businesses that could afford to pay more, but hundreds of dollars more per week? That being said, I can see people pushing back on being called back to work using what the governor said.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What!? Unless PA has totally different rules than the rest of the country, I wonder if he just doesn’t know the nitty gritty of the laws on this.

      1. Lizzy May*

        Most likely. There’s so much policy and law in every state that it’s hard to believe that a governor would know everything off the top of his or her head. I’m sure there’s a policy wonk in the Governor’s office who heard that answer and started screaming internally.

      2. SuperDoctorAstronaut*

        PA resident here, too — this came across to me more as a comment on overall wage rates in a majority of the state. This is a governor who has routinely proposed raises to the minimum wage and is very much for the worker. The initial question also included asking if they could *force* these employees back to work and revoke their unemployment. It also came across as very tone-deaf to workers. Gov. Wolf was really just blowing this guy off with a response of, “As a former business owner myself, I suggest you look into paying your employees a more competitive salary.”
        Tom Wolf campaigned on a platform of “I’ve been driving the same Jeep Wrangler since 1987.” He’s not really here to help business owners *force* employees to do much of anything.

      3. Rebecca*

        I know – I watched the video, and could not believe what he said! I don’t think our laws are that different, I mean our liquor laws are so weird and draconian, but other things seem to be the same as other places. From the Lewistown Sentinel article “Wolf’s response was that if employers wish to avoid this problem, they simply should pay their employees more, as if all business owners have a limitless supply of money from which to draw.”

        I’m still astounded at this.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is just going to result in people not being hired back. They’ll collect their inflated wages for the 3 months that is left in that mandate. And then their jobs are going to be given to people who do want to work them in the meantime. Yikes on all parts.

    3. PollyQ*

      If by “revoked” they mean that the state can take back what they already paid, then that makes sense. But otherwise it sounds suspect as heck, and I’d bet the gov misunderstood the situation.

    4. seldomsham*

      Oh yeah, I saw that too and wondered what planet he was from. TBH though Gov Wolf has been saying a lot of things and then going backwards on them lately. I know in PA the “active search” requirement has been getting some wiggle room, but turning down an offer of suitable work should still be a dealbreaker.

      Honest question, but what is stopping the conversation from being “no i don’t want to return” and ending with “ok well in that case don’t return ever”? Can the business owner hire another person to work the available hours and lay off the furloughed employee due to lack of work for that person to do?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think it’s important right now to remember that political folks don’t always know the actual rules and laws, especially off the top of their heads. So never take advice from them, it can actually do you a lot of harm.

        There’s a reason why even the government agencies here tell us to get EVERYTHING in writing and it has to come from their offices.

        I mean…people still think that a certain someone can just intrude on the 10th Amendment and tell states they have to re-open.

        1. tangerineRose*

          It’s kinda sad that these officials don’t just say “I’ll have to check on that.” or something.

          1. seldomsham*

            My favorite literary detective Armand Gamache teaches the four phrases “I don’t know, I need help, I’m sorry, I was wrong” as a mantra, and I love the message that it’s ok to admit you’re unsure rather than baffling them with bullsh*t.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Some are good at deferring and some aren’t! Some want to act like they know everything, when no dude, no you cannot possibly know everything. You don’t do ALL the jobs.

          3. kittymommy*

            The last time I told someone at my job (government and for elected officials) that I would need to double check and/or get them to the person who could answer him right them I was called an idiotic bitch and screamed at. This is a regular response.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I may be misunderstanding the question here, but if an employer attempts to call back a furloughed employee and they refuse, that essentially amounts to a refusal to work. I would think that would be treated like any refusal to work and that the proper course of action would be to terminate that employee and hire someone to replace them. Is that not what one does with people who refuse to work? Please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood the question.

        1. Former Employee*

          It depends. What if you made $25 an hour when you were working, got furloughed, and when your employer called you back they told you they planned to pay you minimum wage to do the same job?

          1. Skeptical Employee*

            Exactly. Or expects you to work without adequate protective equipment or appropriate social distancing, or some other inappropriate conditions.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              According to the unemployment FAQ, you can’t turn down work because you’re at elevated risk of getting the ‘Rona and continue collecting benefits. Business not interested in following the federal guidelines re: sanitizing, masks, social distancing? No testing in your state? Immunocompromised? Too bad, get back to work!

              It is one of the stupidest, most short-sighted parts of the whole thing. (It’s almost as if they want the most vulnerable cogs in the capitalist machine to just die already.)

              1. Skeptical Employee*

                It’s true that that was stupid and short-sighted, but I think there might be a useful pragmatic distinction to be drawn, where “you can’t turn down work because you’re at elevated risk” is different from “you can’t turn down work because your employer is putting you at risk of bodily harm regardless of your individual risk factors.” I think it’s really easily arguable that saying “these conditions are unsafe for anyone in a way that isn’t in the scope of my work duties, so I quit/so I can’t accept this job” (which is a situation that, at least in a lot of states, definitely makes someone eligible for UI) is different than “I can’t work outside of my home right now because I’m at elevated risk.” Both SHOULD be covered, but I think there’s a case to be made that the first is covered by UI even if (ugh) the second isn’t. And I think that also might be a way of backdoor covering a lot of people for whom both the first and second are applicable.

                1. Resident*

                  I’m skeptical that UI would apply to unemployed healthcare workers who were offered but are choosing not to work without adequate PPE.

          2. Oh No She Di'int*

            I was responding to seldomsham’s question, which is as follows:

            “Honest question, but what is stopping the conversation from being “no i don’t want to return” and ending with “ok well in that case don’t return ever”? Can the business owner hire another person to work the available hours and lay off the furloughed employee due to lack of work for that person to do?”

            seldomsham didn’t stipulate any of those circumstances. So OF COURSE if there are circumstances in addition to what seldomsham outlined then that would be a different question. I answered the question that seldomsham asked.

    5. ALM2019*

      Also in Pa. I didn’t see yesterday’s briefing but I’m a bit confused by this. I’ve been helping a family member with their biweekly filing as they’re not working. For every week that you’re applying for payment you have to answer if you were offered to work and refused. I would assume if you say yes you’re not eligible?

    6. MissDisplaced*

      That’s the problem with the “extra $600” versus granting an extension of the benefits period (which went to 99 weeks during the last recession) at the normal UI rate based on earnings.

      This is a first for adding extra $ on top. Typically the state may revise UI rates overall to pay more, but not add on top. And why $600? Where did that number come from and what’s it’s based on? Because $600 is actually much higher than federal minimum wage currently set at $7.25/hour or $290/week.

      I mean, I get it, but it’s confusing and seems counterproductive.

      1. Anon For This*

        Exactly. It’s like everyone at the Federal level declined to use any ounce of systems-thinking skills, and just wanted to act quickly. I respect the act-quickly impulse, but if you don’t game out “What is the underlying problem we’re trying to solve? And what are the first three logical moves that are likely to happen as a result of Policy X? And how would Policies X, Y, and Z interact to cover the different parts of this system?” … The incentives are all screwy, and there are unintended consequences with big financial impacts, because there was no pause to think things through.

        1. J.B.*

          So as I read it was a work around for ancient state computer systems that couldn’t handle anything more detailed. In other words, the consequence of years of shorting systems.

      2. Wandering*

        Isn’t it because more higher level “professional” people are being laid off, making the standard maximums a lot smaller a percentage of those people’s salaries? They’d like those folks to be able to pay their bills, too, and the folks who otherwise would get a lot less are benefiting too.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          That may be so, but it’s kind of having the adverse effect.
          In my state the top out for any UI was $600/week. So, yeah, for those used to $50k+ salaries, $600 a week is a pittance (boy do I know!) and the extra $600 helps keep you closer to your salary. Now, not everyone gets $600/week UI though. For someone who regularly makes $10/hour the weekly benefit may have paid about $300-$350. But if your benefit is now $300/week + $600/week = $900/week for 3 months (woo-hoo right). Versus your $400/week for going back to work at your $10/hour job and possibly putting yourself at risk of getting sick.
          So, yeah, you see what’s happening, and I mean how can you blame someone?

          I think it would have been better to put that extra $600/week towards a) more overall weeks for people and/or b) an incrementally higher weekly benefit, given the employment situation will take some time to rebound from this. The stimulus check would have satisfied the more immediate need for cash help now.

          It seems kind of nonsensical to me, though I do think people need to have the UI safety net.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “putting yourself at risk of getting sick.”

            This is the problem. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to go back to work. I know a lot of people who are afraid of going back to work and then getting sick or bringing the virus home and killing one of their family members. And they’re expected to take that risk for less money than staying safe at home? It makes no sense.

      3. Xarcady*

        It is my understanding that the $600 figure was arrived at by positing a 40 hour week at the $15/hr minimum wage that keeps getting talked about.

        The extra money is designed to fill in the gaps of unemployment—the lowest payment in my state is $32/week. And takes into consideration that people may be without work for months and that very little hiring is happening right now. Which means that the usual avenues/incentives of getting off unemployment aren’t available to many people right now.

      4. LQ*

        Not actually a first for adding more money on top. In the last recession it was $25/week though. So it was sort of a different ballgame of money.

    7. Deanna Troi*

      The governor’s press team clarified this today: “A press secretary clarified that a person may not refuse work solely because they are making more on unemployment claims.” (Link in reply to this comment.)

      I almost fell off my chair when Wolf said that yesterday. Politicians would be so much more credible if they just said they don’t know the answer and will get back to them.

  6. New Fed Here*

    Could you claim that due to new circumstances, the new job offer was no longer “suitable”? Like a change in mobility requirements, or new job description that calls for lifting heavy things and you have a bad back, whatever?

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Why would it be fraud? If there’s something new in the job that requires skills they don’t have or something they can’t do, that seems legitimate.

      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        No, it’s not; last time I was on unemployment I asked the lady at the office. You get to define suitable for your purposes, but the job gets to argue back. It’s not fraud, but it’s not a guarantee they’re going to agree with you either.

        1. Smithy*

          In the context of “suitable” – I do wonder how a COVID-19 risk would be received?

          For instance, you have a healthcare vulnerability such as diabetes type 2/asthma etc. Therefore a job that pre-COVID-19 feels safe, at this time the job no longer is suitable for your healthcare (i.e. no PPE, high contact with the public) and you’re currently seeking only full time remote employment as a result.

          Certainly a claim that might not work in the context of unemployment, but I’m curious.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            Good question; not sure. My ask was in the context of “I *have* a confirmed start date for a job in another state, for which I am going to move, but I haven’t moved yet and haven’t started that job yet and still need to eat, and I’m *not* saying yes to work around here because I have to move a two bedroom apartment across country in less than a month, wtf do I do now??”

            Another way to avoid taking offered work that’s “not fraud” is to ensure that the company doesn’t offer you the job. That comes with its own set of problems and complications, though. I did a phone interview which I was interested in (I wanted to hear if it would be better than the position I’d accepted…) and then specifically asked them to not make the offer so I would be square with unemployment.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            The UI FAQ answers that. If you’re in a high risk category (immunocompromised, health issue, on chemo, whatever) and worried about getting sick, that is not a valid claim.

            However, once you do get sick and start showing symptoms that are confirmed by a doctor, you qualify for UI benefits under their quarantine provision and/or once the test comes back positive you continue to qualify for benefits under their COVID-19 patients shouldn’t be at work provision. So there’s that.

            1. Resident*

              As a healthcare worker being paid minimum wage, this sounds horrible. Taking care of COVID19+ patients and being exposed to COVID-19 as an intended part of the job without adequate PPE is not an acceptable job. UI should not be withheld from people who refuse to put their own and their family’s health at risk by working in non-OSHA-compliant jobs for pennies.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s always going to be case by case in most instances.

      If they randomly started telling someone they had to lift heavy stuff, that’s going to drastically impact their workers comp ratings, so that…shouldn’t be happening…

    2. LQ*

      You would have to be actively looking for other work, or may not be eligible for benefits if you are unable to work due to a medical condition. A lot of these things have been relaxed due to covid. But if you are in an industry that requires lifting things and your job still requires you to lift things then you need to be ready to explain that you are making a work search in another industry. (There likely isn’t right now, but normally there is funding and support for shifting industries like this.)

  7. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

    Check your state’s unemployment rules – search “(State) Unemployment Coronavirus” and you will likely find if any temporary eligibility rules are in place in your state. Some states are allowing people who are voluntarily not working right now, even if suitable work is available, to claim unemployment.

  8. Cobol*

    OP, I won’t address unemployment as Alison and others have, but I would go back because it’s so much easier to find a job when you have one.

    Look at this as a blessing of learning it’s time to find a new job.

  9. Random Commenter*

    Is there a reason that you don’t want to return to the job and continue your job search while you’re there?

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      It sounds like a combo of knowing even before this that the job wasn’t a good fit plus with the extra $600/week t hey are now making more on UI than they were at that job.

    2. LGC*

      Lots. For starters: if you work in an office, that raises your exposure to potential coronavirus – and it also raises everyone else’s exposure. (Even if you’re the only person in the office. And especially if you take public transportation normally.)

  10. SwingInTheTree*

    I’m impressed you’re even getting unemployment payments. I filed back in mid-March and haven’t been able to get through the system in my state.

    1. Amy Sly*

      Same. I started a new job with a substantial raise two weeks after my husband got furloughed. (Very convenient, as the raise was almost as big as his salary!) My boss was commenting that it must be nice getting those fat unemployment checks. I had to tell him we haven’t gotten a penny of UI for the month he’s been out of work — though thank you very much for the fat paychecks! (My first paycheck with 40 hours on it was big enough to need a comma! #winning)

  11. Gaia*

    OP don’t do it. Not only because fraud is the only way you could keep getting unemployment if you decline to return to the job that laid you off, but because our “record low” unemployment rate is gone and isn’t coming back for a long time. Well after unemployment payments run out. Unless you’re not in need of a job, possibly for a year or longer, this isn’t worth that risk. Let alone the risk that comes with unemployment fraud.

  12. FrustratedinOH*

    My entire company was laid off and then we were each given the opportunity to come back on an “as needed” basis, or PRN with no guaranteed work from week to week. This made sense for the nurses and CS reps on staff, but as the marketing manager, I couldn’t wrap my head around how I would continue to do my job. I talked it over with my boss and she suggested I work as a contractor, but after thinking over the pros and cons (of which there were many), I declined. I’m still waiting for my unemployment claims to be approved, and I think part of the problem is the complexity of my situation. It’s super frustrating.

  13. Anonish*

    I’m actually a little scared of this happening because one person in my department was just asked back which means she’s now doing the job of all 10 people who were laid off. How substantively different does the job have to be in order to turn it down? Like if they’re offering the same or less money for 10 times the work? Can you turn down a job if you don’t have childcare due to COVID-19?

    1. Mel_05*

      You may be able to. On my unemployment form it asks if you’re unable to work because of needing to care for a dependent during covid 19.

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      I mean – that’s simply not possible. If management hasn’t addressed what work needs to be done and what can go by the wayside, then your company has Problems.

      1. Anonish*

        I mean, yeah, starting with the fact that they laid off all 10 people doing the same role and only then realized they actually needed someone to do that role in order for business to continue. Trying not to be too specific but imagine there were 10 llama teams and each had their own groomer. Now they’ve got one groomer responsible for all 10 teams.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          If the coworker was working 40 hrs a week and is now working 400 hrs a week than yes they are doing 10 times the work. But if the coworker was working 40 hrs before and is now working only 40 hrs still, then they are doing 1/10 of a job for 10 jobs. The coworker might be working 50/60 hours now when they were doing 40 hrs before, so then they would be doing 1/4 to 1/2 more work.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Pedantic and unhelpful. I trust Anonish understands the situation.

            There are also roles that can’t be divided that way. Some work is more task-based than hours-based and being able to do many more tasks during the same amount of hours doesn’t mean you’re doing the same amount of “work” overall. (Ex: Payroll for all 10 departments still has to get done even if you only have 1 of the 10 people you previously needed to finish all the work.)

            1. Darren*

              If the essential tasks for the roles required 10 people working 40 hours a week to accomplish 1 person literally cannot do it. It’s just impossible, so whatever role this one person was hired back on to do has been scaled in some way, or it didn’t require 10 people initially (which again seems doubtful having a bit of overcapacity is normal but have 10 people being used at basically 10% capacity is ridiculously implausible).

              I would expect it’s like every team had a project manager who used to be responsible for tracking project statuses, reporting that to management, building project plans, and so on. And while they thought all of these were unnecessary tasks they found actually we do need someone to build the project plans which is only about 10-20% of the total work the project managers used to do (or is now as a result of COVID changes to the business) so we can probably get by with just one of those.

    3. SweetestCin*

      I saw a variant of this question on a local FB group. Basically, mother was an RN (we’ve been relatively hard hit in my area) and father was a retail associate at a Big Box Store. Big Box store was trying to call father back from layoff; meanwhile, there is NO open childcare here, except for proven “first line and first responders”, and there is a wait list. Mother was honestly attempting to determine what recourse they had, if any. She never has provided an update, but I know I would have a difficult time wrapping my brain around trying to take a spot in the only open childcare – yes, my spouse is considered essential under some pretty stringent rules, but my job can be done from home. Why on earth should I take a childcare spot from someone who needs it?

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You need to check the state mandated rules right now. Many have put into place that if you don’t have childcare, you can stay on unemployment if you are called back and cannot work from home!

      Some states suck though, so some states are like “nope, not an excuse.” It’s going to depend.

  14. Double A*

    This was actually a huge drawback for me having a union job last year (I’m a teacher). My position was eliminated, but the union contract stated I must be offered anything I was qualified for in the organization, and the only job that was open was one that I felt completely and totally unable to do. I was qualified on paper, but the actual nature of the job was totally different than anything I’d ever done– I’ve only ever worked with high school, this was a job in elementary. The last time I have stepped foot in an elementary school was when I was in elementary school. Taking the job would have been bad for the people I was supposed to serve, for my career, and for my soul.

    However, because I had a job, no matter what job, I didn’t qualify for unemployment. So, because my job ended in June and school doesn’t start up again until August, I lost two months wages and went without health insurance for 4 months. It sucked. But I know that my organization had no interest in letting me get unemployment, and my union negotiated that contract so there was nothing I could do.

    1. Gumby*

      Interesting. It isn’t like asking a 4th grade teacher to take on 5th grade. High school and elementary school take entirely different skill sets.

      My parents were teachers in CA where your credential is specific to primary or secondary school (multiple subject credential for elementary, single subject for secondary though you can be credentialed in multiple single subjects for secondary as far as I understand it) so a high school math teacher is not considered qualified to teach kindergarten. That makes a lot more sense to me.

      1. Double A*

        I have a Special Ed credential and that’s good for K-22 in my state! Which I actually didn’t even know until they assigned me to that job, because I originally got my credential in another state that does segregate Sped by age. My state does it by disability type.

        My situation was definitely quite unusual; most teachers would not risk being transferred that drastically.

        1. Retail not Retail*

          Ah my mom’s a sped assistant. She’s somehow escaped middle school over the last 20 years but she’s done everything from preschool age to over 18.

    2. Retail not Retail*

      My mom was in a dispute with her principal and while it was being resolved she got sent to a school 45 minutes away. At least her experience has been k-12 so that wasn’t a struggle!

  15. AnotherAlison*

    Another more general comment on the topic. A question like this kind of makes me think the OP thinks things will go back to normal soon. I’m genuinely in one of the best job situations you could be in, and I still don’t think we’re going back to business-as-usual soon (or ever). I know personally of 3 small businesses that have folded, and that was just from “I wonder if XYZ is still open at all” and Googling. I haven’t left my house much to see what’s going on out there, ha. If you have an opportunity, any opportunity, take it. Don’t look backwards 6 months to make decisions in that paradigm. It doesn’t exist anymore. The expanding unemployment isn’t lasting forever, either. I knew a few who greeted their 2009 unemployment breaks with open arms and then realized they could not find another similar job when they needed to.

    1. Viette*

      “the OP thinks things will go back to normal soon” –> I agree, I get that impression too. I think I get it just from the fact that the OP thinks they can go get a job at all? I know that’s pessimistic of me, but as you point out, so many businesses are closing completely, and even big businesses are holding tight and heavily avoiding risk or new expenses. And whatever the US government may say, all the data and all the experiences of other countries show that the economic effects are not going to just fade away after a few months.

    2. Rachel in NYC*

      I agree. I work at a major university- and the head of the university basically sent out a come to jesus email re: the budget. My department is lucky in that we have all sorts random funding sources- so the head of our department was able to get other people to cover a lot of things in the budget we’d otherwise have to cut. But this isn’t a time that I’d like to be unemployed.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a good point.

      This is why I keep cringing and literally have cried when I hear people whooping it up over the extra $600.

      That’s not sustainable. You won’t get it forever. And unless you’re damn good at saving your extra income [and data proves most are not], it’s going to just add pain and suffering in the end.

      People are out there spending their stimulus checks on new tvs and such…just for an example.

      I am not a doomsday-ist. It will get better.We recovered from the Depression, we’ve recovered from the Great Recession. The economy will rebound BUT those great declines take times to recover from. it takes time to rebuild our lives.

      The difference here is about taking baby-steps out of the storm cellars. This just throwing open the doors and letting the economy roar right back to life where we ended it at six weeks ago isn’t going to work. It never works that way.

      1. Cat Meowmy Admin*

        Preach!! Agreed 1000% and you said it perfectly and poignantly. I feel exactly the same way. Even after the last recession, it took years before I found another job. Grateful to still be working right now, as my bosses are doing everything they can to keep me employed. But it’s week by week as they struggle to keep their business afloat. They were approved for the PPP, but like thousands of other small businesses, the funding ran out and they didn’t get in. Hopefully there will be another wave of PPP.
        In any event, it’s a far better decision to return to the job – while there is one- and just continue to job search while working. Because that opportunity likely won’t come back around any time soon, and long after the UI runs out.

      2. Batgirl*

        Yeah im wondering if the people who are all gleeful about it actually remember the last recession. Or it could be they were cushioned from it or don’t recognise this situation as the same. Risky assessment.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          The people I know who are spending the money stupidly are the ones who are currently insulated from the major fallout right now (and the ones buying stupid things for their kids because come on she’s wanted her own bike forever and they’ve never had the extra cash before and summer’s going to be hard).

          The people I know who are truly on the edge, they’re mostly using the money to pay down the credit cards they’ve been using to buy groceries/other bills the normal unemployment doesn’t cover.

    4. Another freelancer*

      I was laid off two years ago, and it took me about four months to find a new job. And this was when the job market was hot, too. I initially thought I’d be unemployed for maybe six weeks, tops, and that didn’t happen.

      OP, if you are rehired at your old job, please take it. You have no idea how long it will take you to find a new job. If you have a job, even if it’s one you don’t like, then you have the luxury of being picky while you job-search on the side. That’s one of the best things you can do for your career right now.

  16. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

    One thing I suggested to someone who was Immunocompromised is that they ask to be moved down the list of rehires, due to their illness/risk factors. (I honestly don’t understand why our governments haven’t just let anyone who is high risk of getting serious complications self isolate with EI/UE benefits). But I don’t know if it would count as refusing a reasonable job offer.

    But honestly, I get it. I wouldn’t want to be at work right now either, as a person who is high risk. But thanks to my mixed luck, I’m allergic to cleaning supplies, so I can’t work until we go back to normal cleaning protecals. (we have to basically wash the whole store down every 4 hours. Which is 4x as much cleaning products in the air. Even my R95 masks couldn’t completely stop/prevent the asthma attacks unlike usual. (not that I can find any right now anyways))

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Argh! I’m not allergic to cleaning supplies, but I haven’t taken a job that involved intense, chemical, indoor cleaning. I did do tag hanging shifts and I’d trade any section not to do the cleaning supplies though. “I’ll do the freezer please do the detergent!”

      We’re spraying down our tools at the end of the day, but most indoor spaces are locked and sanitized and sealed for now.

      I hope they sort things out, because I feel like the sanitation won’t be going down once you reopen since people use that as a substitute for social distancing.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      “I honestly don’t understand why our governments haven’t just let anyone who is high risk of getting serious complications self isolate with EI/UE benefits.”

      Pretty sure no one in power wants to confront the reality that a lot of poor people are sick because of the way being poor makes you live. Can’t have like 80% of minimum wage workers refusing to go back to work their minimum wage jobs just because they have a significantly higher chance of death, you know?

      That part where the people who are part of vulnerable populations are supposed to self-isolate until the third or forth gate in the official white house plan to reopen the economy only applies to the people who can afford to live with no income for a few months because benefits are very much not an option in this scenario. It’s disgusting.

  17. TootsNYC*

    I’m a cheerful–sometimes enthusiastic–taxpayer. But even I don’t want my tax dollars to prop up someone who absolutely could be working and just doesn’t want to.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      3 of my coworkers have said something similar. It’s not taxpayer money (i think? The mysteries of nonprofit funding kept from us hourly workers), but we’re getting paid 40 hours a week right now no matter what we work.

      I don’t want to work because my anxiety is almost crippling me and my mom is high risk. Is that moral?

      /i should note the other comparable departments are at reduced hours and staffing with full pay. One department has to be normally staffed and I feel we should stay the hell away to keep these people as safe as possible

    2. Róisín*

      I absolutely could be working right now. I work a service-industry job (think cafe, not grocery store) and there are hours available to me if I chose to work. However, I don’t want to be working right now because I think it’s irresponsible for me to be out and about when I don’t have to be. Not only is my being at work encouraging people to go out (“they’re open and I’m bored!”) but I’m a low-risk person who could easily wind up catching COVID19 without knowing, and subsequently passing it on to customers who take it home to high-risk family members.

      I’m not taking unemployment because my company is still paying us regardless of whether we work or not, in an effort to keep as many of us home as possible. But if they didn’t, and they offered to temporarily lay off anyone who wasn’t willing to work so we could get unemployment while staying home, I’d take that.

      I mean, we’re told “stay home, save lives” so why limit that to people who don’t really have a choice?

    3. Ego Chamber*

      Hate to tell you but the big chain grocery stores are hiring like mad right now. Dominos is hiring, Pizza Hut, pretty much all the big chain restaurants that have converted to pickup/delivery. Home Depot and Lowes. It takes more people than you’d think to coordinate and pull orders vs letting customers do the shopping themselves.

      Point is, anyone who wants to work can apply for one of those jobs right now, but they’re not because those jobs are low pay/low status and I guess that’s a valid reason to refuse to work and continue collecting benefits. Otherwise, the unemployment office would make everyone work at fast food or whatever’s hiring since all of those people absolutely could be working those jobs and just doesn’t want to.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        People have valid reasons not to work those jobs beyond snobbiness. Right now they’re low paying (depending on your region) and more dangerous than usual (depending on enforcement of social distancing/store occupancy).

        Also, they are not full time and offer very little stability.

      2. Arielle*

        Or they have kids who they are now responsible for homeschooling (because schools are closed) or just caretaking (because daycares are either closed or reserved for first responders/healthcare workers.) I’m sorry to sound like a broken record across multiple posts on this, but I don’t think this is “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory. Most people (within a certain demographic) have kids.

    4. Jedi Squirrel*

      I don’t know about New York, but here in Michigan UI isn’t funded by general taxes—it’s funded by employers.

  18. Forrest Gumption*

    I would not recommend turning down a job just because you don’t like it. As the other replies said, unless the job your employer is offering is substantially different or at much lower pay, you could be entering fraud territory if you turn the job down AND the state UI office finds out. I have personal experience of this – I’m STILL paying off an overpayment debt from 10 years ago…

  19. [insert witty user name here]*

    What about states that are starting to open back up for business and people don’t want to go back yet because they don’t feel that their employer is doing enough to keep them safe? IE – not providing or enforcing mask use, not being able to be physically distant at work, etc. So it wouldn’t be a case of “I should have left this job anyway” but a case of “I don’t currently feel safe doing this job.”

    1. fposte*

      While the devil will be in that state’s details, I suspect that as long as the business is abiding by state guidelines you wouldn’t be eligible for deciding it wasn’t enough for you.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      For just our state’s “updated” unemployment rules say that “i don’t feel safe” without any backing from a doctor or state official isn’t enough to stay on unemployment.

      You could ask OSHA, you could ask the state but honestly, the feeling I get is that people are going to be making this very difficult decision and many are going to end up without any kind of benefits backing them.

      I wouldn’t ever want to give advice to ever reject work without the counsel of your state offices, they’re the ones who can do case by case and their nitty gritty details in their laws. Sadly this is going to show us all the extreme lack of employment protections and safety built into the legal system.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See this on the new unemployment rules:


      The relevant parts:

      What if I’m not working because I have coronavirus or need to care for a family member who does?
      You’ll be eligible for unemployment if you’re not working because you’re experiencing symptoms, have been advised by a health care provider to quarantine, or have received a diagnosis, or if you’re caring for a family member who has. Go ahead and file.

      What if I’m unable to work because my child’s school or day care is closed because of the outbreak?
      You’ll be eligible for unemployment. Go ahead and file.

      What if I quit my job because of something related to coronavirus?
      It depends on the specifics. If you quit because of one of the situations above (your child’s school closed and you need to care for them at home, or your doctor recommended you quarantine), you’ll be eligible for unemployment. But if you quit because you worried about the safety of continuing to work and your employer insisted on staying open, it doesn’t look like you’d be eligible.

      1. ChildfreeKate*

        So basically, people without school aged kids are less valuable than those with school aged kids and need to risk death even if they are high risk? Ridiculous.

    4. J*

      This is totally what’s happening in Georgia, and I will never be convinced it’s not intentional. Forcing people off the UI rolls, and if they die, they die.

      1. Terra*

        This is so awful. What about people who are in the high risk categories? It’s pretty cruel to force them back to work in dangerous jobs with high rates of infection, knowing there’s a higher probability for them to get sick and die. I’m in one of those categories, but don’t work in such fields (thank god.) I’m not disabled, but if I got the Coronavirus I would not only get very sick and risk dying. Even if I recovered, I’ll likely end up with severe lung damage (according to what they’re showing in the medical reports) that would ruin the rest of my life. If I worked in a grocery store, I wouldn’t even have insurance, so that would further amplify the misery of all this. What the heck, America!

  20. Potatoes gonna potate*

    From what I’ve been reading if your reasons for not going back to work are due to COVID (being sick or caring for someone who has it or childcare issues etc), that shouldn’t disqualify you from receiving UI, at least here in NY. I would think that most states would be following suit.

  21. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Is it possible to have a new post about those who *have* been laid off and how to navigate this time? I don’t want to be on UI. If I had my old job I definitely wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon, but I have no choice in the matter.
    I’ve reached out to a recruiter who said my entire industry is in a freeze right now. Terrifying.

    1. LeahS*

      Yes, I am hoping for this to. I was just laid off Monday and am still in shock with a lot of questions. It’s scary.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Honestly, I’ve been holding off on that because I don’t think there are good answers yet. There’s still so much uncertainty that it’s very hard to give good advice.

  22. Happy waitress*

    So what about those of us who are high risk who are also in high-risk-of-exposure jobs (like restaurants). What happens if we are afraid of coming back to work because we think it’s A) too soon and B) safety measures aren’t in place (when it’s busy I’m regularly chastised for drinking water much less washing my hands, now is this going to translate with our new normal?).

    1. Holly*

      I think this is down to your state DOL regulations. The essential mantra of UI is you have to be “ready, willing, and able to work.” However state DOLs have wide latitude to define what that means. For instance right now, people cannot be ready and willing and able to work if businesses are closed. If your state opens restaurants up, that’s a different story.

    2. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

      Have you been grocery shopping? Have you ordered food for takeout or delivery? All of those people working are risking their lives every single day. I don’t get why some people think that they will be able to stay home and stay safe while they rely on others to take all the risk. Should we all be able to stay home? Sure. Can we? No.

      1. kathlynn (Canada)*

        Because some of us are at a significant higher risk of serious health complications from getting sick?

        1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

          There are many people in “essential” roles that have health issues but continue to work. In an ideal world, everyone would be protected. But this idea that some people must take on the risk to make sure others are safe is not realistic. I hope you are able to stay home and protect yourself. But I have to wonder who is being asked to show up and risk their health to protect you? No one wants to be the sacrificial lamb and the idea that people will get to just stay home and protect their own health while others die is total crap. I am all for a society that helps others, but how much are we going to ask of people that are worn down and tired of carrying the load?

          1. Princess Zelda*

            While I generally agree with you that it’s unfair to ask grocery/factory/sanitation/etc workers who only make $7.25 to carry this load, I don’t think it’s fair to then turn around and ask wait staff who only make $2.13 why they feel so entitled to stay home. There should be protections in place for at-risk populations to refrain from going to work — including those in “essential” positions — but it’s hardly Happy waitress’s personal fault that there isn’t.

            1. kathlynn (Canada)*

              Yeah, I make just under $15/hour. I don’t make $600/week with my current hours. I am a cashier, so I know the load that other non-medical essential workers are carrying. I just can’t make the government do as I would like in regards to funding.

            2. Batgirl*

              Right? Also it’s one thing risking your life to bring people food and medicine; I’m not sure I’d be willing to do it so I could bring someone a latte.

          2. kathlynn (Canada)*

            People who are high risk have been asked to self isolate as much as possible, in order to aboid getting sick, since we are the most likely to need the limited number of critical care beds and ventilators available.

            We just aren’t given the resources to do so.
            thing is, if done right it could help businesses if lay offs were more strategic and voluntary, but still qualifying for benefits. For example, with hours being cut it might be better to lay off the people who are immunocompromised, so they can self isolate, and keep the healthy employees on with more hours. Though that would probably count as illegal discrimination. I do think that with government support and employee’s agreement it could be considered either reasonable accommodation or medical leave.

            (I am off work because of health issues exaspebated by the new clearing regulations. So my coworkers don’t have to lose hours, or they have more hours then before, even though we’d experienced a sharp drop in customers during my last week)

      2. Retail not Retail*

        I mean… under that logic more of us should be volunteering in high exposure positions?

        I’m not sure what you’re arguing but me getting sick bc the governor thinks we should be open doesn’t help my nurse friends or the people at the one store I go to, in fact now all the employees have spread the illness from just one guest even further.

        (Under the plans California has discussed we would be opening like… last. However, we are not California. And the bosses massaged our job to “emergency” nonprofit to make us essential. I have no doubt they’d love for us to open in the first phase. “We’re outside!”)

        1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

          My argument is that the immediate accusation of “how dare you ask me to return to work because its dangerous out there” loses some of it impact when you consider that lots of people are working right now to keep the economy going. They are exposed to sick people and are underpaid. If you are immune compromised, you have a legal way to refuse to return to work and get unemployment. All essential workers ask is to have you as an advocate who is speaking up for them. Email or call your representatives and tell them to insist on enhanced pay for essential workers. If we are going to ask them to carry the load, the least we can do is pay them in line with what people who are unemployed are receiving. I don’t think you would disagree with that, right?

          1. Retail not Retail*

            But by non essential people working and breaking stay at home orders, they’re extra bodies adding to the chaos.

            The waitress at home going to the store isn’t bringing the same germ exposure that she would swinging in after work.

            Oh trust me – would that $600/week represented a drop in my pay! After health insurance, I make less than I did full time at minimum wage.

            Political advocacy aside, I don’t think we should be adding extra people to the mix whether they feel comfortable or not. That’s causing more exposure to essential workers they don’t need. I’m running into this at my job in my own head – we have truly essential employees who have their full normal workload. We have essential tasks (something is leaking! The AC is down!) but my department does not need to be there interacting with those who are essential just to fill time. We’re in trouble if those people get sick and we’re in trouble in ways we’re only just learning are possible.

          2. Ego Chamber*

            Dude you really beat the shit out of that strawman.

            “If you are immune compromised, you have a legal way to refuse to return to work and get unemployment.”
            Unfortunately, no. If you have Covid or are caring for someone who has Covid or are lacking childcare (I think?), you can continue to collect benefits. Just being in a higher risk group doesn’t qualify you for any benefits if you refuse to work (this may vary by state but at the fed level, there is nothing for the vulnerable populations who have been directed to shelter in place for the next 6-8 weeks, minimum).

          3. a good mouse*

            It seems wrong to say, “How dare you, an individual, be unwilling to die for a minimum wage job you could get right now,” instead of “How dare you, corporations, continue to pay people minimum wage for jobs that are exponentially higher risk at this point?”

            It’s not the fault of any person to not want to take a dangerous, low paying job right now just because it’s there, especially when they’re at a higher risk, and it’s pretty dismissive to say they have to ignore their legitimate fears to work that job just because our social safety net is lacking. It would be better to point that ire at the corporations that are exploiting poor people, forcing them into work in their “essential” jobs yet not paying them a living wage, much less enough to last them when they inevitably get sick from all the exposure.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See above — basically, if you’re not working because your child’s school closed and you need to care for them at home, or your doctor recommended you quarantine, you’ll be eligible for unemployment. But if you’re not working because you worried about the safety of continuing to work and your employer insisted on staying open, it doesn’t look like you’d be eligible.

    4. Me*

      Check with your state health department about compliance too. I know that my state has very specific rules businesses must follow including providing masks and allowing for hand washing. Not in compliance means they will get in trouble up to and including shut down.

      So basically check what your states rules are for essential businesses to be open and then check what can be done if they aren’t compliant.

  23. Spek*

    I will be a bit of devil’s advocate here. While I think it’s probably better to go back to work and look for a job while you are working, if that’s not an issue for you, you can maybe collect UI while you look for another job. With the amount of claims expanding exponentially overnight, there just isn’t the staff available to do a lot of digging. Maybe they will be caught up in the future – maybe not; it’s government. I think in the short term, you are probably OK. And for those that think there is a moral issue (and I expect a lot of -respectful- argument on this); i don’t see it. At least in my state, this isn’t a tax – you pay into this fund, which is why if you don’t have a substantial work history with contributions, you are not eligible to file a claim. The government does not allow you to opt-out. They force you to contribute. So it’s not a moral issue for me to game this system: the government forces me to give them money to put in a plan, and then stipulates to me when I am eligible to take out a percentage of it. No one has been refused UI money because the funds are out of money, so you are not depriving anyone.

    1. Holly*

      You’re giving people extremely harmful advice. If you’re caught breaking the law you have to pay back your overpayments usually with a penalty on top (i.e. 15% of the overpayments). In New York, on top of that, you have to “forfeit” future days of unemployment eligibility (i.e. if you are let go in the future, when you enroll in UI again you cannot collect for a certain amount of days as an additional penalty). It’s just not worth the financial hit.

      In addition, employers premium rates go up when workers are on UI, so trust me that an employer WILL report a former employee they believe is committing fraud. It happens all the time.

      1. goducks*

        Agreed. This poster is giving bad advice. Even in states that have waived the actively seeking requirement for UI for the interim, there is an expectation that if you were laid off and are recalled you’re to take the job.
        Further, it’s standard for the employement department to ask employers during the initial claims process whether they anticipate that the lay off is temporary or permanent. I’d guess that most employers who are laying off due to the pandemic are classifying these as temporary lay offs. Which means sooner or later the state will follow up. And when they do, if the employer reports that the OP had refused to return to work, it will trigger a follow up. If the reason for not returning isn’t one of the provisional reasons (COVID 19 care for self or family, or childcare), the OP will face all the consequences, which as you pointed out are repayment, penalties and future exclusion.
        It’s possible the employment department won’t follow up, but I certainly wouldn’t bank on it, especially with record claims. Once things settle down, they’re going to seek out all the fraudulent claims they can find to offset losses.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Yes, but in this case we don’t know if it’s against the law. States have separate rules and some will keep paying in this instance because it’s (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. As far as I know the OP didn’t mention where they’re located..

        1. goducks*

          While it is possible that whatever state the OP is in is allowing employees to refuse to return to their prior job and retain benefits, it’s not probable. Further, the previous poster is giving advice that banks on states not following up due to being overwhelmed. While that’s a possible outcome, the potential consequence should the OP be caught in a follow up is potentially quite painful to the OP.
          In general, when it comes to government benefits, advice that amounts to do it anyway, they’re too inept to figure it out isn’t good advice.

          1. Nessun*

            Agreed. Also anything that looks like money to the government usually gets followed up – if there’s a chance they can find someone gaming the system and make back what they gave/spent plus that penalty fee, they will do so. To me, it’s a similar principle to the one behind auditing income tax returns.

        2. Annony*

          I don’t know of any states that will keep paying if you are offered your old job back. Maybe they will if the job or pay has significantly changed, but the expectation is that you would take your job or similar job if able.

    2. nona*

      “At least in my state, this isn’t a tax – you pay into this fund, which is why if you don’t have a substantial work history with contributions, you are not eligible to file a claim”

      This is wrong? Everything I have ever seen has talked about FUTA and how it’s paid by employers, not employees. It part of the payroll taxes the EmployER pays, not the employEE. So it’s seperate from the the payroll taxes withheld from your check. It’s not like Social Security, where the employee pays into the fund, and then gets money at retirement based on how they’ve contributed.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        I think from an economics standpoint, it doesn’t matter as much who physically pays it, because the employer views it as part of the employee’s total cost – and thus arguably comes out of the employee’s possible compensation.
        Employers also pay a portion of social security.

        Regardless though, when too many people draw on an insurance scheme/pool — in any context, medical or auto or unemployment or workers compensation — when they shouldn’t be, that raises prices, increases the lengths that payers will go towards enforcement, erodes trust, and in general makes it subtly worse in the long-term for those who actually need the coverage when it comes to it.

    3. LQ*

      If you lie about the PUA claims you can go to jail over it.
      “Provide clear messaging on-line that claimants may be subject to criminal prosecution if they are found to have committed fraud.”
      So…I mean sure but you’re promoting a criminal offense here.

      Also if you’re going to get picky about this you don’t pay unemployment, your employer pays. And they pay after they’ve laid you off. They get charged for the people who are laid off either on a direct dollar for dollar plan AFTER you’ve been laid off, or over a few years as a % of what the amount that they pay employees is. And the money you get out of it is only based on your eligibility for that money.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      Except the claimant doesn’t pay into the fund, the employer does. It’s part of payroll taxes. So, this isn’t like “I put this money in, I deserve to take it out.” This is more like, “My employer and other employers put in this money and now I get to use some of it.” This is not a one for one exchange.

      1. Katkat*

        My Angeles employer officially terminated me (and 20 others) 3/28 in a hasty move to reduce payroll. I was a good employee with no issues. I received the termination papers and final check the following week. I also immediately applied for UB. Today I was called by same employer offering 75% pay from 5/1-6/30. She literally said the offer is to qualify them for the PPP money and this is their minimum requirement.
        Will I lose benefits if I decline?

    5. Batgirl*

      Hmm Ive used the ‘you pay for it’ argument when people imply simply claiming unemployment is something to be ashamed of, but I’m not sure that argument covers all you’re saying here. Even when you are forced to pay for a type of cover (like motor insurance) it’s rarely the case that it’s ok to just choose when you want to benefit from it, simply because you paid for it. You can’t just pretend that the old car is totalled because you want a new one.
      However the morality totally pales in comparison to the practical. OP is trashing a reference and going down a long term unemployment route as the economy nosedives. Even the slim reward of unemployment pay is a risky bet as he could be reported for fraud and not even get that. Unless the job is affecting his health I can’t see how the attractions are worth the drawbacks.

  24. Flyleaf*

    What if you took a part time job after being furloughed? Are you required to quit a part time job to go back to your old full time job? Obviously the new part time wages would offset some of your UI benefits, but if the hours were few and the pay rate was small, it might not have much impact.

    1. Annony*

      I believe that if you turn down your old job you will stop being eligible for UI benefits. If you are underemployed they will expect you to take the full time job.

  25. Doc in a Box*

    Thanks for clarifying this. There was an article on NPR this morning (part of the Morning Edition line up for 4/21/2020) about a coffee shop owner who is having trouble keeping her baristas doing curbside pick-up because they’d make more with unemployment. From the way it’s written, it sounds like her former baristas are turning down the job (or maybe even quitting outright?) in favor of unemployment insurance; no mention that if they make that decision they are actually ineligible for UI. I’m sure there was additional nuance to the report that had to be cut to fit in a 3-min radio segment, but it was really confusing!

    1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

      I also read that story and from what I can tell , the owner ended up laying people off because they told her that was what they wanted. She says in her blog that they were asking to be laid off because they would make far more on unemployment and they felt they were losing hundred of dollars of week if they kept their jobs. This is her blog in which she talks about it https://www.kentuckymoonbow.com/blog/url-9wj2b

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Thanks! They’ve also added a little blurb to the bottom of the NPR story: “In this audio story, as well as in a previous Web version, we do not make it clear that Sky Marietta closed her coffee shop voluntarily so that her employees would qualify for expanded unemployment benefits.” They also link to that blog post. I don’t totally follow her math ($600 a week = $60k a year?? unless she’s referring to the difference between gross and net, perhaps).

        She sounds like a good business owner committed to her employees and her town. I hope she’s able to reopen soon.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ll put it this way. Lots of people will try to file unemployment despite them being ineligible.

      I heard people thinking they could [and they did, not our company other places] just quit and claim they were laid off due to COVID. When their employers were indeed not doing that…and they weren’t aware that yes, they’re STILL checking EVERY claim. NOBODY is getting rubber stamped and just thrown wads of cash while they backlog the paperwork.

      1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

        I also saw this article and dug a little bit. The owner has a blog and explained that her workers were practically begging her to lay them off so that they could collect unemployment instead. So she did. Now she is concerned on how to get them back to work when they are making significantly more more per week on unemployment

        1. goducks*

          She can do what we are doing at my company. We had to temporarily lay off certain staff when state orders told us we needed to close. We have since secured a PPA loan. We’re in the process of bringing back staff to work in limited capacity for full salary. We anticipated that some may be resistant due to the increased UI. We have pointed out to staff that feel UI is a better deal that if they don’t return, we will permanently separate their employment. We’ve also told them that just as we told them we expected the lay off to be temporary, we also told the employment department the same thing when they processed the claim. We fully expect that the employment department will be following up on our claims at the designated time, and that we will be telling them whether recalled employees reported or not, as it’s our duty to answer that question truthfully. So far, that’s been enough for people to understand that not returning to payroll might mean loss of UI and a job.

      2. Retail not Retail*

        I know they don’t throw wads of cash at people no matter what, but I received a benefits card in the mail (freaked out assuming some weird identity theft) after filling out unemployment stuff for my part time job. Which was emailed to me because they reported they laid us off. I still have my real job and make more than my state’s limit so I was like duh. No money for me.

        Then this comes. I’m just staring at it and hoping things are safe at real job.

        1. Jessen*

          Some states mail the cards out to everyone who applies. That way there’s no delay in accessing money once people are approved. Then once they process the application they actually load money on the card.

      1. Rollergirl09*

        How are there not repercussions for the business owner when she closed not out of necessity, but to line the pockets of her employees?

  26. Wintergreen*

    Sorry if asked above, I haven’t read the comments but… if you are offered a job somewhere besides the company who laid you off and decline to accept, do you still become ineligible for UI? You are being offered suitable work. Or is it only if offered job back at original company must you accept?

    1. TootsNYC*

      yes, you would be ineligible.

      It isn’t different from non-pandemic times; in Ordinary Times, if you are offered a job, you have to take it unless it’s “not suitable.” If you turn down suitable work, then obviously you don’t need help, and so you don’t qualify for tax payer/public moneys anymore.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. You have to accept any job, by any company that offers it, that’s suitable to your skillset/scope.

      The only criteria you can be picky on is the job criteria [that it’s within your experience/expertise] and that the compensation is comparable. It can be a reduction to a point but it can’t be like “I’ll pay you 60% less” kind of thing usually.

      But in the end, the whole point of unemployment is to get you off their payments. They don’t care that they give you 97 red flags and you don’t like the fit. You still aren’t supposed to turn it down. Unless it’s something illegal or something like that. No, you don’t need to go into money laundering if you are looking for an accounting job ;) you know.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        You can also turn down a job for being too far away (though the definition of “too far” probably varies from state to state). For example, if you live in New York City and were laid off from a job there, you don’t have to accept an otherwise-suitable job in Chicago, even if it fits your expertise and the pay is comparable.

        Standard I am not a llama disclaimer: if this even might be relevant to your situation, see what your state’s DoL has to say on the subject.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh absolutely that too! You don’t need to travel extreme distances. Then it’s a hardship and unfeasible!

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          A disclaimer saying you are not a llama is not needed, llamas do not care about being good coworkers/managers etc they will spit in our face and stop on you if given the chance.

  27. Retail not Retail*

    This is going to sound really callous and ignorant, but does the fact that grocery stores, big retail stores, and fulfillment centers are hiring hurt your ability to get unemployment?

    Like does that count as comparable employment? I’m thinking about my nonprofit job – I make more than K store, or I did before they dangled the $2/hr extra. But my job is full time and has benefits and is “unskilled.”

    I guess I just want to know that if you lost a full time job, are you obligated to take a better paying yet erratically scheduled job?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If you are not from a retail background, you are not expected to go get a grocery store/retail job!!!! This is never a thing, even in regular times!

      It has nothing to do with the amount of money grocery stores are offering right now. It’s all about what your “background” is. If you’re working donations in a NonProfit for less than the grocery store, you’re not expected to go take a labor job…like just about ever.

      I know a bunch of restaurant folks, the cooks out of work right now could make a lot more just going to work for Amazon delivery but they aren’t expected to. they don’t specialize nor have they ever dealt with fulfillment! Some sure have done it because they can and it’s more than unemployment. Most have not.

      1. Retail not Retail*

        Does the full time vs part time issue still stand?

        Like the chefs made $15/hr full time and the one restaurant open is offering $25/hr but no guarantee of hours?

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          That’s a nuanced issue that I think will vary depending on state. I would check with you state’s criteria for suitable work. My recollection is that in my state, full time to full time and/or part time to part time is the criteria.

          Disclaimer: Not a lawyer. Nothing I say should be taken as legal advice.

          1. Retail not Retail*

            Oh this is just curiosity on my part and hopefully helpful info in plain language if someone needs it!

            I wouldn’t feel right taking grocery/retail/fulfillment work right now if I got laid off – my mom is high risk, I’m not doing that to her.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          They’ll usually want you to accept part time work if offered. But then you’re still eligible for partial benefits if your not actually getting hours.

          So if you took a PT job and continued to look for full time work, UI will often kick in for the limited hours. They’ll go on what you’re actually making and can adjust benefits.

          The idea is you’re available for if they call you and it takes some burden off the insurance to completely fund your case.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      “I guess I just want to know that if you lost a full time job, are you obligated to take a better paying yet erratically scheduled job?”

      Why would you apply for a job you had no intention of taking? Maybe this is something people don’t realize if they haven’t been on UI benefits before but you don’t just get offered jobs out of nowhere when you’re on UI. That can happen if your previous employer wants to hire you back but that’s about the only time.

      To qualify for benefits you have to apply for [x] jobs per week. If one of the jobs you applied to wants to hire you and you refuse their offer, you generally get kicked off of benefits if the job wasn’t significantly less pay or in a different industry or something. If you want to stay on benefits for the max time, only apply for unsuitable work (if you were in sales and made $100k/year, apply for fast food jobs [x] times/week and then turn them down because the pay sucks and it’s not your industry). I’m joking, don’t do that, the people I’ve known who did that were scum and yes they liked to rant about “other people” abusing the system.

      1. Darren*

        Well I suppose you could theoretically be head-hunted. i.e. a company using LinkedIn to find people that worked for competitors that have had to shutdown, filter for the best of those and then reach out directly to them in order to have interviews and an offer.

        And once they make the offer if it’s suitable you’d be a bit stuck. I do wonder how likely that is in normal circumstances the roles head-hunted for are smaller, but in a situation like this there is a bit more potential for adjacent industries less affected to acquire some exceptional employees at all levels with just a bit more active hunting on their part than normal.

      2. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

        you don’t always know what scheduled or hours are available when you apply for a job. Most jobs I see just say that it’s part time or full time, and that you need to be available day times and evening and/or weekdays or weekends.

      3. Retail not Retail*

        I’ve never been on UI, I knew you had to apply for jobs. And in my situation (“unskilled” labor), I’d probably assume I had to apply for those types of jobs.

        I mean if most of the restaurants in an area close and cooks have to apply for what’s suitable, it might be higher paying without any inclination of hours or stability.

  28. Ellie May*

    “Unemployment insurance (UI) isn’t there to pad your departure-by-choice from a job you no longer want. It’s an emergency safety net to help keep you afloat if you lose your job.”

    1. Amy Sly*

      I’m reminded of a time I worked a “free legal advice” telethon and had someone asking me how to get worker’s comp to pay for fibro myalgia treatment. (Paraphrased because I couldn’t be this blunt) “I’m sorry for your situation, ma’am, but worker’s compensation is to pay for injuries caused by or suffered on the job site. It’s not just a pot of free money to pay for health ailments that cannot be connected to your work.” And no, she didn’t think that she was exposed to hazardous chemicals or radiation or anything that might have caused it; the logic was “I’m sick and had a job, therefore worker’s comp should pay.”

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Hmm. If she had to quit her job because of issues that came up with her fibro and/or a doctor recommended the treatment so she could get back to work, I can kind of follow the logic even if it doesn’t hold up at all.

  29. Research*

    You’re employer should have made this clear. We let everyone know that if they declined to returned when we called them back it would be a voluntary resignation and they would lose benefits. If they didn’t tell you this, they are irresponsible.

  30. Megan*

    Related question for Allison- If we were laid off and accepted a temp job outside of our typical scope of work (at a lower skill and pay level) just to pay the bills while waiting for the month long back-log of unemployment filings to process, will this effect what is considered “suitable employment” for us once the temp job ends? Specifically, would “suitable employment” now include work equivalent to the lower level, lower pay of the temp job that is outside of our normal types of work and skills? Also, if our work hours at a part-time job vary from week to week with some weeks being under the max claim for unemployment, should we still file our bi-weekly unemployment claims on the weeks we make over the unemployment weekly limits and just report that income (and get no check) or is it better to not file at all on those weeks we earned over the limit (knowing that we may need to file again on following weeks when we make less than the limit.)

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Always file. You can get booted off/future benefits delayed if you don’t file.

      Contact your UI office about the temp job questions, this can vary by state. Check the FAQ on their website before you try to call or email tho since it’s near impossible to get through these days.

      1. Megan*

        Thanks! I was erroring towards “file anyways” and report the income since last time I was ineligble one week, it booted me off and I had to reapply. I have searched the FAQ’s and tried to contact my unemployment office to ask questions, but it’s so overloaded I can’t get through and and an email response is currently taking 18 days. I’ll probably just file and report the money I made that week and see what happens.

  31. KWR*

    Alison, do you know if this still applies if you are part of a COVID-19 high risk group? If someone is offered their job back but cannot accept until the virus is better contained/mitigated?

    1. Rollergirl09*

      In my state, no. Look on your own state’s FAQ. If you are in a position where you are unable to work any job due to your high risk nature, that means you are not ready, able, and willing to work. Which is a requirement of unemployment insurance.

  32. migrating coconuts*

    All legality and rules aside, this is just morally wrong. You should count your lucky stars you have a job that wants you back. Too many people will not have a job to go back to, businesses will be going under. No job = no spending = economy doesn’t recover and we head into another recession. No jobs. And to the people who seem to think they are entitled to this money because they pay into it, you’re not unless you actually qualify. This is Unemployment INSURANCE, not a savings account. Try using that argument with your car or homeowners insurance. Grow up and go back to work. Job hunt if you’re not happy.

    1. Hoping for better*

      You’re awesome. Nobody should be defending unethical behavior lately. Unethical behavior will sink everyone.

  33. Dragon_Dreamer*

    I will note that my old retail job lied to UI and claimed that I had been offered and *accepted* another job with them. This was the same company that was very upset that I refused to come back after they “fired” me, but made me re-hireable. (At lower pay, minimum wage, a different store, and total loss of 10 years seniority.) Their claim was very quickly disproven. They also tried to claim my two day a week interim job was full time. 9.9

    That being said, OP, I agree that you should go back to your old company, and leave AFTER you have a new job. Better to have an income than not. UI *will* make you repay anything given to you that you were NOT eligible for.

  34. VanLH*

    In the two states I practiced law in turning down any job offered and still collecting unemployment benefits is a crime.

  35. Resident*

    Out of curiosity, are you SOL if you’re a healthcare worker but the available jobs don’t provide adequate PPE? This isn’t an issue of the individual being higher risk and thus not “fit to work,” this is an issue of the job itself having unsafe conditions. It seems insulting to me that many essential workers, including people on the “front lines,” are supposed to work under unacceptably hazardous conditions for less pay than they’d get if they were unemployed (many healthcare workers and essential personnel are paid poorly). “Heroes” is really just another word for “sacrificial lambs.”

  36. Alexander*

    I was laid off from my management position a week prior to the shutdown. My employer told me to come back to work not as a manager but just an employee, hours are all messed up and they wouldn’t put a pay plan in writing. Am I obligated to return to the employer when they offered me a lesser position than I was laid off from? Different pay. Different schedule. Different work. And nothing on paper or contract.

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