If you’re a job seeker currently receiving unemployment benefits—either as a laid-off employee or as a self-employed worker—be careful about how you spend your time and the opportunities you turn down. As the Lone Star State makes moves to reopen businesses, the Texas Workforce Commission will once again be requiring proof of a job search.
“Due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Texas, TWC has decided to pause the return of work search requirements at this time,” said Ed Serna, TWC Executive Director. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make further recommendations in late July.”
Once that happens, individuals will once again need to prove that they engaged in at least three work-search activities while self-employed workers will need to prove they took at least three steps to reopen their businesses.
But that’s not the end of the story. In the meantime, if you’re a furloughed employee who refuses to return to work or a job seeker who turns down a job offer, your unemployment benefits could be stripped immediately. Employers are asked to notify TWC when this happens by filling out an Employee Work Refusal Documentation Form.
Each case is reviewed on an individual basis and judged against the following criteria announced on June 22, 2020, as acceptable reasons for refusal (taken directly from the TWC website):
- People 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system, or are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID‑19. (Source: DSHS website)
- Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older or are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (source DSHS website).
- Diagnosed with COVID – The individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.
- Family member with COVID – Anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
- Quarantined – Individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
- No child care – Child’s school or daycare closed and no reasonable alternatives are available.
Not meeting these criteria might result in more than lost unemployment.
“If furloughed workers refuse to return to work when recalled without communicating the reason(s) for refusal, and assuming they were not already on protected leave before or during the furlough, employers in Texas may lawfully terminate those workers for job abandonment and fill those positions with other available talent,” points out the attorneys at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. “The same is true for new job offers: If a candidate rejects a job offer without communicating the reason(s) for refusal, the employer may offer the position to the next candidate selected for the job.”
So don’t treat your unemployment as time off. Texas business owners need your help to get back to business. Let’s work together to get you back to work for them.
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