Offering Suitable Work
The department wants to know if an employer has work available for an unemployed worker.
● If an employer has been unable to contact the worker to offer suitable work, the department will assist upon receipt of pertinent details, which are outlined in “Work Available Report”, accessible under “Related Links”.
● If an employer has offered the unemployed worker suitable work that he or she has denied, the department will investigate such refusal upon receipt of pertinent details, which are outlined in “Refusal of Work Report”, accessible under “Related Links”.
● Beyond offering work to an unemployed worker, the Vermont Department of Labor offers FREE job posting on Vermont JobLink. Job posting entered on Vermont JobLink are uploaded to various other national job banks, such as Job Central. To post a job on Vermont JobLink, click the link on the left hand side of our webpage.
What is suitable work?
Statute requires individuals who are unemployment claimants to accept an offer of "suitable work". Not all jobs are considered suitable for an individual, however. "Suitable work" involves many factors, such as pay, working conditions, health, work skills and commuting distance.
Two major questions comprise our scenario of suitable work:
● Was the person actually willing to work; and
● was the job appropriate for the person?
One must be willing to work to receive unemployment insurance. Any indication to the contrary triggers an immediate investigation. "Going through the motions" is not sufficient. A sincere desire to work must be shown through a realistic work search effort. A willingness to work implies being able to work. If one is physically unable to work due to illness or injury, he or she may be barred from receiving unemployment insurance benefits for refusing otherwise suitable work for as long as they are unable to work.
If a willingness to work is evident, then the department explores the appropriateness of the job. For example, if a person earned $12.00 an hour as a manager at his or her most recent position, a job at $6.00 an hour as a salesperson would not normally be considered appropriate. If the new job required a commute of 50 miles, but the person had always worked within 10 miles from home, the location of the new job might be sufficient reason to turn down the job. If a person did not have the necessary skills or background for a job, he or she could also refuse it and generally remain eligible for unemployment insurance.
If a job offer is in the person's normal occupation, working conditions and pay become key issues. A carpenter would have a fairly strong case if he or she refused a night carpentry job. Carpenters do not normally work at night, and that unusual working condition could be sufficient reason to refuse a job. Pay that is either considerably below the person's most recent salary or less than the prevailing wage for the occupation also may constitute a valid reason to refuse a job offer.
We have been assuming a valid job offer of work has been made to the person. To be a valid offer of work, the job must begin within two weeks, and the worker must be told pay, hours, location of the job, and other relevant information. A simply query of "Would you like to work for me?" does not meet the department's definition of a valid offer of work.
A person who is working has the right to remain with the current employer. Refusing to work for someone else is perfectly acceptable. This right to continue work for one's current employer often leads to bitter protests from a former employer. The reason for the strenuous protests can be understood with this example.
A worker, "Joe", is laid off by Superior Products Company. "Joe" receives unemployment insurance payments for a month, and then takes a job with Quality Wares Company. When Superior Products asks "Joe" to return, he refuses. They then hire someone else. A few months later, Quality Wares lays off "Joe". He resumes collecting unemployment insurance, and Superior Products is still charged for his payments. Superior's owner is not happy, and hastens to tell the department that "Joe" refused an offer of work.
The department investigates, discovers that "Joe" was working for Quality Wares at the time of the job offer, and informs Superior Products that "Joe" has not violated any provision of the unemployment insurance law and will continue to receive payments. The worker has done nothing to cause disqualification of his unemployment, and has abided by all the regulations. Superior Products will be charged for his unemployment for the rest of the benefit year. (A "benefit year" begins when a worker files for unemployment insurance and ends 365 days later. Within that time period, charges for unemployment are not changed. They will be assessed against the same company or companies for the entire 12 months.)
The department will only investigate a "suitable work" issue if the person is currently receiving unemployment insurance or was receiving unemployment insurance at the time of the refusal of work. The department has no legal authority to investigate a person who is not now and has not been receiving unemployment insurance.
For more information on this or other aspects of "suitable work", employers should call the Employer Assistance Line toll free at 1-877-214-3331, with claimants calling the Claimant Assistance Line at 1-877-214-3332.