One obstacle that occasionally trips up applicants for unemployment compensation benefits is the obligation that they be “actively seeking suitable employment,” as required by Minn. Stat. §268.085, subd. 1(4). The phrase “actively seeking,” defined as “being ready, willing, and able” to accept suitable employment, applies to all seekers of unemployment benefits, regardless of the reason for their separation from employment: lay-off, discharge, or quit. The Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED), the agency that administers the system in Minnesota, as well as the courts, have tended to interpret this provision relatively strictly in claims brought by jobless Minnesotans.
A trio of recent cases decided by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from DEED, underscores the importance of applicants for benefits complying with these measures.
These three unpublished cases—Bennett v. Castle Kitchen Corp., 2014 WL 2178834 (Minn. App. 05/27/2014) (unpublished), Dunn v. Caremate Home Health Care, 2014 WL 3021581 (Minn. App. 07/07/2014) (unpublished), and Haub v. DEED, 2014 WL 2565698 (Minn. App. 06/09/2014) illustrate some key considerations for employees who seek unemployment compensation benefits:
- First, an employee should develop and stick to a work-search plan, which can be formulated with the assistance of DEED personnel;
- An employee should keep close track of job search efforts, preferably with documentation, showing jobs available, applications, telephone calls, internet searches, and actual job interviews, among other matters. Putting together some type of coherent chronological timeline can be useful, too.
- When declining a job offer, an employee should be able to show the reasons for refusing the position, which may include unfavorable terms and conditions of employment, deviation from existing job skills, or remote distance from residence, among other factors.
Employers and their representatives opposing those claims should try to establish the availability of appropriate job openings in the applicant’s market area, as well as showing the lack of significant efforts by the claimants to find and fill a position.
Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC