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Patrick, Esq.
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Category: California Employment Law
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I was laid off for budget reasons on Friday. My employer said

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I was laid off for budget reasons on Friday. My employer said they have an option of another position if I want to interview. I am a single mom of three and have worked for the company at 32 hrs a week for seven years. The new position is a demotion of sorts and lower pay but 40 hours. I would not get home until 8 pm every night because I live 25 miles from the job. Can they deny me unemployment benefits if I don't accept the offer of the interview?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am so very sorry to hear that you have been laid off from your former position.

Generally speaking, an individual will not be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if he or he denies an offer of "suitable work." This is because one of the requirements for collecting unemployment benefits is that the claimant be unemployed "through no fault of their own," and when a claimant denies an offer of similar work, the EDD reasons that they are unemployed "by choice," since they had an opportunity to be employed and passed it up.

Of course, the above hinges entirely upon what constitutes "suitable work." Not all work will be regarded as "suitable." In regard to defining "suitable work," Unemployment Insurance Code Section 1258 states in relevant part:

"'Suitable employment' means work in the individual's usual occupation or for which he is reasonably fitted, regardless of whether it is subject to this division.

In determining whether the work is work for which the individual is reasonably fitted, the director shall consider the degree of risk involved to his health, safety, and morals, his physical fitness and prior training, his experience and prior earnings, his length of unemployment and prospects for securing local work in his customary occupation . . . . "

To read more about how the EDD defines suitable work, visit this link:

While it is clear that work must be something which the UE claimant is "reasonably fitted" to do, and that the rate of pay is one factor among several that the EDD will consider in making this determination, there is no dollar threshhold for what makes an offer of work "suitable." Thus, there is an inherent degree of risk in passing up any employment offer, since it is impossible to predict whether the EDD will regard that employment as suitable.

While there is no concrete answer in these situations, I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX the information I've given assists you in making the decision of whether to accept or reject this offer.

My absolute greatest concern is that you are satisfied with the answer I provide, so please do not hesitate to contact me with follow-up questions. Also, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
what about if the hours do not work for me? I am a single mom of three and would not be home until 8pm every night. Plus working in the admin office as a manager for the employees I will now be working alongside will be awkward. Plus, I know how stressful the job is. A large number of the staff are looking for work elsewhere or are ready to just quit.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Thank you very much for your reply.

Unfortunately, the EDD does not generally regard long hours as a legitimate reason for passing up "suitable work." Under certain extreme circumstances, excessive travel time will make a work offer "unsuitable." The EDD discusses those circumstances here:

Notably, however, the EDD states:

"Claimants may refuse employment due to the amount of time they will be required to spend traveling to the job. If the time required to commute to the prospective employment is customary for others in the claimant's occupation and community, the time spent cannot be considered unreasonable.

It should be noted that the Board has consistently held one hour's travel time is not an excessive commute time. It should also be noted that in some occupations and in some areas, more than an hour commute time is considered usual."

Thus, it is unlikely that the EDD would regard the long hours and commute as sufficient to pass up the offer assuming driving time was not well more than one hour each way, assuming the work is otherwise "suitable."

Again, my number one goal is that you are satisfied with my answer. If you still require further clarification, I am happy to continue assisting you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Does it matter that they actually offered that I could interview for the position? I guess it's not actually an offer of a job, but an interview.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Turning down an interview for a position that constitutes "suitable work" may very well constitute grounds for denying UE benefits. Again, this goes back to the requirement that receipients of UE benefits be unemployed through no fault of their own and do everything they can to remain employed, including pursuing interviews that have been offered.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
So by offering me a position they know I do not want and can't take because of family issues they are screwing me out of unemployment? I know what a crappy job it is, low pay and high stress. Plus I am way overqualified for the position.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
"So by offering me a position they know I do not want and can't take because of family issues they are screwing me out of unemployment?"

I will assume that is a rhetorical question. I sense your frustration and I completely understand it.

If the position is one which you are vastly overqualified for, the offer likely would not constitute "suitable work," and so could be denied on that basis. Of course, passing up any offer that could remotely be construed as "suitable" carries with it the risks discussed above.

I am truly sorry that you have been put in this difficult situation. I trust that you can, however, appreicate my limitations in telling you what the law actually provides for in this instance.

If you have any additional concerns whatsoever, please feel free to let me know.

Very kindest regards.
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