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Able & Available for Suitable Work and Refusal of Suitable Work

Able & available for suitable work

To receive unemployment compensation, you must be “able and available” for suitable work (43 P.S. § 801(d)). People are sometimes denied benefits because they are found not to be “able and available”.

Q: How do you prove that you are “able and available”?

A: To prove that you are able and available, you should be able to show:

  1. A labor market exists for your skills. You do not need to be able to show that there are actual job vacancies, only that there are jobs for your skills.
  2. You are physically able to do work within this labor market.
  3. You have a way to get to this labor market (transportation).

Q: Can you place restrictions on the jobs that you are willing to take, and still be considered “able and available”?

A: Yes. You can place reasonable restrictions on the jobs that you would be willing to take, and still be considered “able and available”. However, a potential job market must still exist for you, even with these restrictions. If you could do some work with the restrictions, you are “able and available”. Examples of restrictions you could potentially place on jobs include:

  • Health restrictions, such as how much lifting or standing you are willing to do, or limitations on working around allergens (Pifer v. UCBR, 639 A.2d 1293 (1994)).
  • Limiting the mode of transportation, such as limiting yourself only to jobs that are within walking distance. (However, you must make reasonable attempts to overcome your transportation problems.) (Shaffer v. UCBR, 531 A.2d 533 (1987)).

Q: Can full-time students be considered “able and available”?

A: Yes. As long as your schooling leaves open a job market for your skills, you can be considered “able and available” for work (Wagner v. UCBR, 460 A.2d 1210 (1983)).

Q: Are there any categories of workers who are automatically considered not to be “able and available”?

A: Yes. Persons who are in prison after being convicted of a crime are never considered able and available (43 P.S. § 802.6). Also, teachers and school employees are rarely considered able and available to work during their time off over summer break (Chickey v. UCBR, 332 A.2d 853 (1975)).

Refusal of suitable work

You will lose your unemployment compensation if you refuse “suitable” work without “good cause” (43 P.S. § 802(a)). Therefore, you will lose your unemployment compensation benefits if:

  • You turned down a job that is “suitable” for you, and
  • You turned down the job without “good cause”.

Q: How can you tell if work is considered “suitable” for you?

A: Unemployment compensation referees and courts will consider a number of factors in determining if work is “suitable” for you, including:

  • Your training and experience.
  • The distance of the potential job to your home.
  • The length of time and reasons you’ve been unemployed.
  • The likelihood of finding work in your usual occupation near your home.
  • Your previous earnings.
  • The condition of the job market.
  • The normal wage rate in your occupation.
  • The permanency of your residence (43 P.S. § 753(t)).

Q: What are some examples of “good cause” for turning down a job?

A: Some examples of turning down a job for good cause include:

  • The job will not make use of your training or skills (UCBR v. Franklin & Lindsey, 497 Pa. 2 (1981)).
  • You are physically unable to do the job, even though you are able to do other types of work (Sem-Pak v. UCBR, 501 A.2d 694 (1985)).
  • Doing the work would violate your religious beliefs (Curry v. UCBR, 410 A.2d 99 (1980)).
  • You are unable to get to the job (as long as you’ve made a reasonable effort to find transportation) (Morrison v. UCBR, 407 A.2d 486 (1979)).
  • You can’t find quality childcare during the required work hours (as long as you’ve made reasonable efforts) (Jurkiewicz v. UCBR, 477 A.2d 583 (1984)).

Q: What are some examples of turning down a job “without good cause”?

A: You will lose your unemployment compensation for turning down a suitable job “without good cause”. Turning down a job “without good cause” includes turning down a job because:

  • It is full time and you want part time work (Jurkiewicz, 477 A.2d 583 (1984)).
  • It is part time and you want full time work (Carolina Freight Corp. v. UCBR, 650 A.2d 1101 (1994)).
  • It pays wages lower than you are used to (Rising v. UCBR, 621 A.2d 1152 (1993)).
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