MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - If you are looking for work, here’s something you should know. A new Tennessee law just made it tougher to receive unemployment benefits.
At the heart of the law is the definition of “suitable employment.” It used to mean approximately the same pay as your former job, but that is no longer the case.
The new law has been on the books for just a short while. The key is that one little word, “suitable”, now defined on a sliding scale.
During your job search, if you refuse what the state considers to be suitable employment, your benefits may go away.
“For someone whose family depends on an unemployment check, this is bad news,” said Donald Crawford, “very bad.”
Crawford is looking for work.
“So that the longer you are on unemployment, the lower the offer that is considered suitable,” said Jeff Hentschel, Communications Director for the Tennessee Department of Labor.
Put simply, on that sliding scale if you refuse a job for less money, your unemployment benefits could be cut.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Marsha Hudson told abc24.com, “you’re supposed to get your full benefits.”
Hudson is also looking for work.
For the first thirteen weeks of benefits, a suitable job is defined as one that plays 100 percent of your prior salary.
“Week 14-25 it’s 75 percent,” said Hentschel, “26-38 weeks it’s 70 percent; after the 38th week it’s 65 percent.”
“So, if I was making $50,000 a year,” said Wendell Mass, “and wouldn’t accept a job for $25,000 they’ll just cut me off.”
“The times for collecting unemployment for a long period of time,” Hentschel told abc24.com, “those times are really over.”
“It’s a shock to me,” said Crawford, “I’ve never seen this before; never even heard of it before.”
It is a new law; but it does not necessarily mean you will have to go outside your chosen field.
“If you are an engineer you would not be expected to take a job as a truck driver,” Hentschel said.
That may be some good news- but not much.
“It doesn’t look good.” said Hudson.
“It’s deplorable,” Crawford told abc24.com, “it’s bad; it’s really bad.”
As one might imagine nobody seemed happy with Tennessee’s new law; most didn’t even know about it.
Keep in mind, employers will inform the state if you turn down a job because that is in their best interest. They fund the unemployment trust fund, so the healthier it is the less they pay.