August 01, 2002
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND PART-TIME WORKERS IN OTHER STATES
By: John Moran, Associate Analyst
You asked for examples of how states that allow unemployed part-time workers to collect unemployment insurance (UI) benefits define eligibility for these workers.
There are 22 states that allow part-time workers to collect UI without requiring the applicant to seek full-time work, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which tracks the issue. These states allow varying degrees of eligibility, with eight of them insuring part-time employees the same way as full-time employees. Connecticut is among the 28 states that do not allow part-time workers to collect UI unless the applicant is seeking full-time work.
This report focuses on the different approaches taken by California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Three of them allow employees with a past history of part-time work to collect unemployment while looking for new part-time employment (California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota). Massachusetts also allows workers who are partially disabled and looking only for part-time work due to their disability to collect UI. California also allows claimants to collect benefits if they can show “good cause” for limiting their job search to part-time work.
The Maine legislature approved a bill to remove the requirement that a person seek full-time work in order to qualify. The governor vetoed the bill and the legislature failed to override the veto.
UI FOR PEOPLE WITH A HISTORY OF PART-TIME WORK
A 2001 California law extended eligibility for UI to workers seeking part-time employment if (1) the claimant's wage-earning “base period” (the person's most recent employment period that applies to UI law) consisted of part-time work, (2) he is seeking and willing to accept similar work with no additional restrictions, and (3) he is in a labor market with a reasonable demand for the part-time work the claimant offers.
The Bay State's regulation on eligibility for part-time workers requires both (1) a history of part-time work and (2) a demonstration of good cause for limiting availability to part-time work. A claimant must “establish to the satisfaction of the commissioner” good cause for searching only for part-time work and this must be the same reason the claimant previously worked part-time (430 Code Mass. Regs. 4.44 and 4.45(1) and (3)). These two requirements of work history and good cause make Massachusetts's eligibility for part-time workers narrower than California's.
For years the state has allowed claimants with predominantly part-time work histories to receive unemployment benefits within certain guidelines. In 2001 it enacted legislation clarifying the policy. Under state law, any claimants for benefits must be available for “suitable employment” to qualify. The bill, HF 655, expanded the definition of suitable employment to state that if the majority of a claimant's applicable work history (“wage credits”) comes from part-time employment, then part-time employment with comparable hours and requiring comparable skills is considered suitable (MN Statutes 268.035 Subd 23a(e)). The claimant can reject such employment if the pay is less than 150% of his unemployment benefit. If the claimant rejects work earning 150% or more of his UI benefit, benefits can be denied. (Since benefits are usually 50% of previous pay, this means claimants must accept work paying 75% or more of previous pay.)
Massachusetts's regulations allow disabled claimants to get UI benefits. The unemployed worker may limit his work availability to part-time employment if he:
1. is a qualified worker with a disability,
2. provides satisfactory documentation to the employment and training commissioner demonstrating an inability to work full-time due to the disability, and
3. establishes to the commissioner that the disability does not effectively remove him from the labor force.
The regulations state that such a person will not be disqualified from the program for turning down work that requires more hours than he is capable of working (430 Code Mass. Regs. 4.44 and 4.45(2) and (3)).
As a result of court cases in the 1970's, California adopted a regulation allowing a claimant to qualify for benefits if he can show “good cause” for limiting his job search to part-time work. The regulation requires a claimant to be “ready, willing and able to accept suitable employment or have good cause for any restriction on his or her readiness, willingness, or ability to accept such employment and, notwithstanding such restriction, a substantial field of employment remains open to the claimant in his or her labor market…(22 Calif. Code Reg. § 1253(c)1(b)).”
This year the Maine legislature passed a bill (LD 1258) prohibiting a person who is not available for full-time work from being denied UI if he was available for part-time work and otherwise qualified. The bill set no other eligibility requirements on part-time workers. The governor vetoed the bill and the legislature failed to override it.