IF I REFUSE A NEW JOB OR WORK ASSIGNMENT, CAN I STILL GET UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IN PENNSYLVANIA?
The answer to the question that is the title to this Blog entry is as follows: to deny you unemployment benefits.
Here are some scenarios:
* You were hired by a temp agency to do complete an assignment. When the assignment ended, you were not offered any additional work by the temp agency (or you were offered work that was not "suitable" - see discussion below). However, temp agency claims it offered you work, and characterizes your refusal to accept (such alleged) work as proof that you quit your job.
NOTE: Temporary employees often face some hurdles if they have worked as 1099 employees (independent contractors). Click Here to learn more.
* You employer decides to eliminate your job but offers you another job either immediately prior to your last day of work or thereafter. When you refuse the (alleged) job offer, it characterizes your conduct as a "voluntary quit."
Why do I keep saying "alleged"? Well, it is my experience that employers rarely put these offers in writing, and rarely are willing to provide any detail as to the specifics of the offer.
Well, you ask, why don't they put these offers in writing?
Call me paranoid, but my experience has been that employers in this situation really do not want to keep the employee employed. Why? I guess the most common reason is that the financial circumstances that led to the end of the job in the first place is the reason that employers want to "cut bait" with the employee in question.
For those on temporary assignment, it's usually because a new assignment is not really available.
So, you ask, why aren't employers simply honest about what is going on? Again, call me paranoid, but my experience is that they engage in this charade in order to avoid unemployment compensation obligations.
IS THIS A VOLUNTARY QUIT CASE OR A SUITABLE WORK CASE UNDER PENNSYLVANIA UNEMPLOYMENT LAW?
Well, employers want it to be a voluntary quit case, because it is very hard to prove that one has a "necessitous and compelling reason" to quit a job, so as to be qualified for unemployment benefits.
However, to call these quit cases is usually plain wrong. The fact is, these cases are correctly characterized as "suitable work" cases. What does that mean?
If an employee has lost his/her job, then the employee must accept any offer of "suitable work" or else be disqualified from receiving unemployment.
In the scenarios described above, what has really happened is that the employee has lost his/her job. Thus, the new job that is being offered is actually an offer of a new job, and must be accepted only if it is described in detail and is suitable.
WHAT IS SUITABLE WORK UNDER PENNSYLVANIA UNEMPLOYMENT LAW?
In general, it is a job that is in nearly all regards similar to your prior position with regard to pay rate, location, responsibilities, shift times, etc. If you used to manage people, a job cleaning toilets is not suitable. If you used to make $22 per hour, a job paying you $11 is not suitable. If you used to work 40 hours per week, a job offering you 12 hours per week is not suitable. If you used to work in Philadelphia, a job in Pittsburgh is not suitable. If you used to work the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift, a job offer for the overnight shift is not suitable.
If you are facing a scenario such as described above, it is a good idea to require the employer to set forth the terms and conditions of the "new job" in writing. Put your request for such specifics in writing, and send it to your contact at the company. If things become further complicated (and they often will because employers who are trying to "get over" will refuse to put the alleged offers in writing), it may be a good idea to contact a qualified unemployment lawyer in your area to make sure that you have protected yourself so as to insure your entitlement to unemployment benefits.
Further, if you have an unemployment hearing coming up that involves a scenario such as described above, there are some rigid legal requirements for employers in such circumstances that a skilled unemployment lawyer can utilize to help you win your case!
More Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Questions? Click Here to read our answers to your FAQs.