It can be difficult to keep track of all the rules and regulations governing what makes someone eligible to collect unemployment benefits. One concept that can be particularly confusing is how someone can collect unemployment if they’ve been offered work, but refused it. This concept applies most frequently to temporary job placement or staffing agencies employing workers that file for unemployment at the end of an assignment.

Let’s cover some of the primary concepts relating to job refusals and unemployment.

Firstly, to have an impact on a claimant’s ability to collect unemployment benefits, an offer of work must meet the definition of a “bona fide offer.” While the regulations can vary slightly by state, generally speaking, a “bona fide” offer exists when it is made in writing and is made through direct conversation with the claimant. What this means is that, a voicemail message left with an offer of work generally doesn’t cut it (and the same goes for a text message). If you didn’t speak directly to them to make the job offer or hand it directly to them in writing, most states will not consider it a “bona fide” offer of work. A claimant can only be disqualified from collecting unemployment for refusing bona fide work offers.

Next, the offer of work must be considered suitable for the worker. This means that it must be in a line of work for which the claimant is qualified. It also must be for a reasonable rate of pay based on the claimant’s work history. Therefore, if you offer a manual labor position paying $12 per hour to a former worker who has always done clerical work and has historically earned $16 per hour, the offer will most likely be considered unsuitable and will not be cause to disqualify that person from collecting unemployment benefits. That claimant could refuse the offer of work without jeopardizing their eligibility.

Also, it is important to keep detailed records of job offers. If you believe that an offer was refused that was both a suitable and bona fide offer, the state will need documentation substantiating that. Documentation of a work offer and refusal should contain, at a minimum, the following elements:

* The date of the offer and how it was made (in person and/or in writing)

* Who made the offer (name and title)

* The offer details including position, rate of pay, hours, shift and duration of work

* The anticipated start date (and end date if applicable)

* The date the offer was refused and how it was refused (note: failure to return a phone call is generally not considered a true refusal)

* Who the worker gave the refusal to (name and title)

* The reason for the refusal – This part is critical

Always make sure to ask for the reason a job is refused. Even when a job offer is both suitable and bona fide, if the reason for refusal is considered good cause, the claimant may still be able to collect. However, if the reason is personal in nature or otherwise not considered good cause, then they may be disqualified from collecting. The duration of disqualification will depend directly on the details of the job offer, further demonstrating the important of keeping detailed records of all offers.

Finally, if you are having limited success with protesting unemployment claims for workers that have refused your offers of work, or need further clarification, enlist an expert. An employer representative that is well versed in this subject can make a big impact on the successful management of your unemployment program.