NOTE: This page will be updated continually as new information becomes available.  Please check back frequently for updates. (Last updated 6/25/2020)

Refusal of work

Individuals receiving unemployment benefits must be able and available for suitable work, this includes an offer to return to work after being laid off due to COVID-19. People receiving unemployment benefits must have a good-cause reason not to accept an offer to return, in order to work to continue receiving benefits.

This page includes useful Questions & Answers for employers, as well as instructions for reporting work refusals. You’ll also find Questions & Answers to help workers consider offers to return to work and to navigate the unemployment process.

 
On this page:
  Information for employers concerning refusal of a work offer  |  Information for workers about turning down work  |  Q&A for employers  |  Q&A for workers.


Information for employers

Are you ready to bring back employees, but the work was turned down?

What you need to do:
The reporting form is located on the eServices site. If you are new to eServices, you will need a SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account, so you can securely and privately log into the system.

Here are links and instructions for creating and logging into your SAW and eServices accounts.

 

What’s next?
Prepare! You will be asked to provide specific information. Have it on hand before you log in, to speed up the process. 

  • Name & Social-Security number of the employee
  • Date of job offer
  • Who made the job offer and their title
  • Details of the job offer (Position, location, wages, hours, etc.)
  • Method of the job offer (Phone, email, text, etc.)
  • Contact information for the employer (your business)
  • The employee’s response

 

Fill out the questionnaire
How to get to and fill out the online Refusal of Work form 

  

Employer Q&A
Learn more about refusal to work and unemployment eligibility by reviewing these frequently asked questions.

 

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Information for workers

Were you called back to work but can’t return?

We’re here to help. 
In this unprecedented crisis, we know the path to returning to work isn’t going to be straightforward for many people. If you are currently receiving benefits from ESD and cannot go back to work when called to do so (either from an old job or to a new job), we’re here to help you figure out what to do.

It is important to know that if you turn down an offer of work, for any reason, you must report that on your weekly unemployment benefits claim submission. That said, if you have what is called a “good cause” reason for turning it down, benefits can still be available to you.

 

Good reasons to refuse work
If you cannot telework for pay during the pandemic, good reasons to refuse work can include: 

 

You can’t turn down work and retain benefits for reasons such as:

  • You make more on unemployment than you would at the job you’ve been offered.
  • You don’t want to work.
  • Your are nervous about returning to work, but do not have another accepted reason to refuse.

 

What happens if you don’t answer truthfully?
If you don’t answer honestly on your weekly claim then the entire account will automatically be in adjudication. That means you have one or more issues on your claim that must be reviewed by an agent to determine if you’re eligible to receive benefits.

It is important to answer truthfully on your weekly claim when you are unavailable for work, unable to work, offered a job and/or paid any earnings that week.

Breaking the rules, such as intentionally failing to report correct work and earnings, or the reason for leaving your job, can result in a denial of benefits as well as an overpayment and penalties that we will collect. Such actions may even result in criminal prosecution.

  

Answering dishonestly is considered fraud
If you knowingly withhold information – including a refusal of work – this is considered fraud, and you may be denied benefits and assessed an additional penalty.

 

Worker Q&A

Learn more about refusal to work and unemployment eligibility by reviewing these frequently asked questions.
 

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Questions and answers

Q&A for employers

Q: I provided an offer to return to work to an employee who is refusing to return. What should I do?
A:
 Individuals generally do not have the option to choose between receiving unemployment benefits or an offer to return to suitable work from their employer. Individuals must have a good cause reason not to accept suitable work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the federal CARES Act.

Good cause reasons an employee may refuse work and continue to collect unemployment benefits and PUA include:

  • Being at high risk of or sick with COVID-19 or taking care of a household member who is at high risk of or sick with COVID-19 when there are no telework options.
  • Staying home to take care of a young child because their school or daycare is closed.
  • If you have substantially changed the job they are coming back to, such as significantly cutting their pay or moving the job location a significant distance away, or if the worksite does not meet COVID-19 safety guidelines, they may refuse that work and continue to collect benefits.

When an employee files a new or reopened unemployment benefit claim, you may be notified and can dispute the employee’s claim to have been laid off through no fault of their own. You can appeal a decision by the Employment Security Department to provide unemployment benefits to a worker, though you cannot appeal the decision to provide PUA. 

 
Q: How do I report someone who has refused to return to work and is continuing to collect unemployment?
A: Anyone filing weekly claims must truthfully attest as to whether they received an offer to return to work. When they notify us that they received an offer to return to work, we will conduct fact finding to determine continued unemployment benefit eligibility. You may proactively contact us if you’ve offered the opportunity to return to work but the employee has refused. Report work refusal issues in your eServices account, or by sending the information to us.

  
Q: What are the consequences for individuals who do not truthfully report when they are not able to and available for work, refuse an offer of work, or receive earnings when they file weekly claims?
A: Everyone must truthfully report when they are not able to work or if they aren’t available for work, whether they were offered employment, and any earnings when filing weekly claims. Intentionally failing to report correct work and earnings, availability for work, or the reason for separation can result in a denial of benefits, repayment of benefits penalties, and possible criminal prosecution

 
Q: What is considered suitable work?
A: "Suitable work" is work that is in line with the claimant’s prior training, work experience and education. If you are offering an employee a return to work, the working conditions, wages earned and hours worked by the employee must be similar to those previously provided.


Q: What if an employee refuses an offer to return to work?
A: Anyone filing weekly claims must truthfully attest as to whether they received an offer to return to work. When they notify us that they received an offer to return to work, we will contact you (their employer) as part of our research to determine if they are still eligible for unemployment benefits. You may also proactively contact us to report a work refusal through your e-Services account (see our instructions for filling out that form).

 
Q: What is considered good cause to refuse work?
A: A “good cause” reason for refusing an offer of work is when the work is not considered suitable. If the work is considered suitable, “good cause” can be established if it’s shown that the claimant had a personal and compelling reason for refusing the offer of work. For example:

  • Claimants 65 and older or those considered high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because returning to work can put their health at risk.
  • Claimants who are living with someone or caring for a family member who is considered high risk. Returning to work can put their household or family member’s health at risk.
  • The worksite is not safe.
  • Childcare is not available to allow an individual to return to work. This may be a qualifying reason to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

We review a claimant’s availability for work separately from a refusal of work. Claimants must remain able and available to accept suitable work.


Q: What if the worksite is unsafe?
A: Washington employers must follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state Department of Labor and Industries and the state Department of Health requirements and guidance to maintain a safe workplace. 

Any individual has the right to report any safety concerns to their employer, as well as to the Department of Labor and Industries. These reports can be made anonymously online or over the phone. 

Work is not considered to be suitable if the employer is unwilling or unable to provide a safe workplace, as required by state and/or federal law and guidance. Employers have the responsibility to prove that workplaces are safe and in compliance with appropriate workplace safety laws and guidance.

If a claimant refused an offer of work due to a workplace safety concern, we will determine if the work offer is suitable work and investigate whether the workplace conditions are safe, and if the claimant had good cause for refusing a job. This will be based on the requirements, including COVID-19 guidance, that employers are to follow when operating their businesses.

A claims center agent will follow up with the employer to ask:

  • Are they in compliance with the state and/or federal requirement for which the claimant believes there is a workplace safety issue?
  • Have they documented compliance with workplace health and safety guidelines?
  • Have they communicated with the claimant about workplace safety practices?
  • Do other employees share the claimant’s workplace safety concerns?

We will also contact the employee. Information from both claimants and employers, as well as state and federal safety regulations, are taken into account.

Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. For individuals to continue to receive regular unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), they must show they had a good cause reason to refuse an offer of work.

 
Q: What if an employee refuses to return to work because they are at high-risk for COVID-19 or caring for someone who is?

A: If teleworking is not an option and the employee is 65 and older, or at high risk from COVID-19, or lives in the same household as a high-risk individual, or is providing direct care to a high-risk individual, the employee may refuse work and continue to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The Governor’s Proclamation 20-46, in effect through August 1, prevents all public or private employers from failing to protect high-risk employees from possible exposure to the COVID-19 disease on the job.

Specifically:

  • The employer must offer high-risk employees alternative work assignments, including telework, alternative, or remote work locations, if feasible, and social distancing measures.
  • If an alternative work assignment is not feasible, or the employee declines, the employer must allow the employee to use any accrued leave or seek unemployment benefits.
  • The employer must maintain the employee’s health insurance benefits.
  • The employer is prohibited from permanently replacing high-risk employees.

 

Q: What if an employee refuses to return to work because they do not have childcare?
A: If your employee is receiving regular unemployment benefits but cannot return to work because of a lack of childcare due to COVID-19, they may still be eligible for federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

When you report that your employee did not accept an offer to return to work due to child care responsibilities, we will investigate to determine whether the employee has primary caregiving responsibility for a child or other person in their household who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

These claimants may be denied regular unemployment benefits, but still receive PUA providing financial assistance as they are unable to return to work.

 
Q: What are my appeal rights if I disagree with a work refusal decision?
A: If you disagree with the decision we made regarding an employee’s unemployment benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. You must send us an appeal request within 30 days after the date we sent you our decision. You can submit an appeal online, mail or fax (mailing address and fax number are below). We cannot accept appeals over the phone or by email. Your appeal must be in writing and must include:

  • The decision you want to appeal.
  • The reason you disagree with our decision.
  • Your name and Employment Security reference number.
  • Your current address and phone number.
  • If your appeal is late, explain the reason it is late.

Claims Center Appeals
P.O. Box 19018
Olympia, WA 98507-0018
Fax: 800-301-1795




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Q&A for workers

If you turned down an offer of work for any reason you must correctly report it on your weekly claim. It doesn’t mean you will lose your benefits, if you have a good reason to refuse an offer, but it will likely mean you have to take some additional steps and that we’ll follow up with you.
  

Q: What is the difference between regular unemployment and expanded benefits under the federal CARES Act?
A: Regular unemployment: Regular weekly unemployment benefits provide you with temporary income when you lose your job through no fault of your own. To qualify for regular unemployment benefits you must be able and available for work and accept any suitable work you are offered. If you refuse to return to work without good cause or because you are getting paid more on unemployment than your usual job, you will be denied benefits.

Expanded benefits: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a separate benefit program to cover many people who do not qualify for regular unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, including self-employed individuals, independent contractors and part-time workers (with fewer than 680 hours) and others affected by COVID-19. Use our eligibility checker to learn more.

 
Q: My employer has re-opened for business and asked me to return. Can I still collect unemployment if I refuse?
 
A: Eligibility for unemployment benefits are considered on a case-by-case basis. If you refuse an offer of work we will need to determine if you had a “good cause” reason to continue to be eligible for unemployment benefits. 

If you cannot telework for pay during the pandemic, “good cause” can include: 

You may be eligible for expanded benefits if you have other reasons you can’t return to work during COVID-19 (see question below).

 
Q: My employer is open for business, I was offered to return to work, and I did not return to work and was denied state unemployment benefits. Will I qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
A: If you are denied regular unemployment benefits because you are not available for work, but the reason you are unavailable for work is because you are directly impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible for PUA. For example:

  • You have to care for a child in your household who is unable to attend school or daycare because it has been closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You can't get to work because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

Use the eligibility checker to see if you may be eligible for PUA. We still would have to address the work refusal on your PUA application if there was a good cause reason to refuse work.
 

Q: I have been receiving weekly unemployment benefits. My employer has requested that I return to work. I refused this request. Can I continue to receive unemployment benefits or PUA?
A:
 If you continue to file weekly claims, we will continue to conditionally pay weekly benefits while determining your continued eligibility for unemployment benefits or PUA. If it is later determined that you were not eligible for benefits received then we will collect any benefits from you for which you were not eligible. You can also appeal a denial of unemployment benefits.

 
Q: What are the consequences for not answering truthfully on my weekly claim, including my ability or availability for work, refusing an offer of work, or receiving earnings?
A: You must truthfully report all information on your weekly claim. Intentionally failing to report correctly your work and earnings or the reason for separation from your job can result in a denial of benefits, repayment of benefits, penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

 
Q: What is considered suitable work?
A: While claiming unemployment benefits, you must be able, available and ready to immediately accept any suitable work that may be offered.

“Suitable work” is work that is in line with your prior training, work experience and education. When offered work, you should ask yourself:

  • Do I have the experience to perform the work?
  • Do I have to be trained in order to be able to do the work?
  • Do I need to have more education to be able to do the work?
  • Have I done this type of work before?

 
Q: What happens if I refuse an offer of work?
A: A claimant who refuses an offer of work and is claiming unemployment benefits is required to report the refusal to us during the weekly claims process. If you report that you refused an offer of work to the department, you will receive a questionnaire via your preferred correspondence method (mail or eServices secure email). An example of some of the questions you will be asked are:

  • What was the reason for refusing the offer of work?
  • What date was the offer of work made?
  • What method was the offer made? (by phone, email or a letter)
  • Did you qualify for the type of work offered?

 
Q: What is considered good cause?
A: 
A “good cause” reason for refusing an offer of work is when the work is not considered suitable. If the work is considered suitable, “good cause” can be established if it’s shown the claimant had a personal and compelling reason for refusing the offer of work. For example:

  • Claimants 65 and older or those considered high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because returning to work can put their health at risk.
  • Claimants who are living with someone or caring for a family member who is considered high risk. Returning to work can put their household member’s health at risk.
  • The worksite is not safe.
  • Childcare is not available to allow an individual to return to work. This may be a qualifying reason to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

We review a claimant’s availability for work separately from a refusal of work. Claimants must remain able and available to accept suitable work.

 
Q: What if the worksite is unsafe?
A: 
Washington employers must follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Labor and Industries and Washington State Department of Health requirements and guidance to maintain a safe workplace. 

Any individual has the right to report any safety concerns to their employer as well as to the Department of Labor and Industries. These reports can be made anonymously online or over the phone. 

If a claimant refused an offer of work due to a Workplace Safety Concern, the department will evaluate if the workplace conditions were safe in order to determine if it is suitable work. This will be based on the requirements, including COVID-19 guidance, employers are to follow when reopening their business.

Work is not considered to be suitable if the employer is unwilling or unable to provide a safe workplace required by state and/or federal law and guidance. Employers have the responsibility to prove that workplaces are safe and in compliance with appropriate workplace safety laws and guidance.

A claimant may still be found eligible for unemployment benefits even if the employer is found to be following and maintaining a safe workplace. However, claimants must establish they had good reason to believe the worksite was not safe when refusing the job. 

If a claimant reports they refused an offer of work because the worksite was unsafe, additional fact finding will be needed. A claims center agent will follow up with individuals to ask:

  • In what way was the employer not in compliance with state and/or federal requirements to maintain a safe workplace in general and/or as it relates to COVID-19?
  • Did the claimant document non-compliance with workplace health and safety guidelines?
  • Did the claimant talk to their employer about workplace safety practices?
  • Are there other employees who may substantiate the workplace safety concerns?

While making a determination, we will also contact the employer in question to get their information on the given statements. Information from both claimants and employers, as well as state and federal safety regulations, are considered.

Eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. For individuals to continue to receive unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), they must show they had a good cause reason to refuse an offer of work.

 
Q: What if I am at high risk for COVID-19?
A: 
If you cannot telework and are 65 and older or at high risk from COVID-19, or you live in the same household as a high-risk individual or are providing direct care to a high-risk family member, or if you refuse work, you may continue to qualify for unemployment benefits.

 

Under the Governor’s Proclamation, in effect through August 1 and protecting high risk employees, if you are a high-risk individual receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), you can continue to qualify for PUA after refusing work, while the Proclamation is in effect. This potential eligibility for PUA after refusing work does not apply to workers who are not high-risk from COVID-19, but live with people or care for family members who are, unless those household or family members have been diagnosed with COVID-19. It is important to report to us any refusal of work, so we can determine eligibility.

 
Q: What if I need to care for a child?
A: 
If you are receiving regular unemployment benefits but cannot return to work because of a lack of childcare due to COVID-19, you should report that as the reason you refused an offer of work. Your availability for work will also be reviewed. If you are denied regular unemployment benefits, you can apply for and receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

You may have good cause to refuse an offer of work and receive PUA, if a child or other household member for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and you require such school or facility for you to work outside the home.

 
Q: What if I am denied unemployment benefits, can I receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)?
A: 
If you are denied regular unemployment benefits because you are not available for work, but the reason you are unavailable for work is because you are directly impacted by COVID-19, you may be eligible for PUA. For example:

  •  You have to care for a child in your household who is unable to attend school or daycare because it has been closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You can't get to work because of a quarantine imposed by state or municipal order as a direct result of the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

Use the eligibility checker to see if you may be eligible for PUA.

 
Q: Will I get paid while my reasoning for refusing work is considered? 
A: 
If you have been receiving weekly benefits and report a work refusal, we send you a fact-finding request. If, at the same time, you continue to file weekly claims, we will continue to conditionally pay weekly benefits while determining your continued eligibility for regular unemployment benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). If it is later determined that you were not eligible for benefits you received, then we will collect those ineligible benefits from you. You can also appeal a denial of unemployment benefits.

 
Q: What are the consequences for not answering truthfully on my weekly claim, including my ability or availability for work, refusing an offer of work, or receiving earnings? 
A: 
You must truthfully report all information on your weekly claim. Intentionally failing to correctly report your work and earnings or the reason for separation from your job or if you refused any work offers may be considered fraud. That can result in denial of benefits, repayment of benefits, penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

 
Q: 
How can I appeal a denial of benefits?
A: 
If you or a prior employer disagree with the decision we made regarding your unemployment benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. You must file an appeal request within 30 days after the date we sent you our decision. You can file an appeal online, or by mail or fax. We cannot accept appeals over the phone or by email. Your appeal must be in writing and must include:

  • The decision you want to appeal.
  • Date of the decision.
  • The reason you disagree with our decision.
  • Your name.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your current address and phone number.
  • Any records you think should be considered in making the decision.
  • Any witnesses you would like to have present for your hearing.
  • If you need an interpreter, and which language you use (this includes American Sign Language interpreters).
  • If your appeal is late, explain the reason it is late.
  • Your signature.

Online:
https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/ 

  
Mail:
Claims Center Appeals
P.O. Box 19018
Olympia, WA 98507-0018

 
Fax:
800-301-1795

 

 

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