KHOU 11 interviewed employment lawyer Rogge Dunn about the requirements for unemployment benefits as outlined by the Texas Workforce Commission.
The news segment aired in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as Texas businesses prepare to reopen on May 1 following a period of shelter-in-place orders. This brings forth a dilemma for many Texas residents: do they get back to work or stay on unemployment benefits? Moreover, if people want ongoing eligibility, they must continue to meet all of the requirements for unemployment benefits.
During the KHOU 11 news segment, Dunn emphasized that unemployment benefits are a safety net and nothing more. “You don’t want somebody who is simply not going to work and not trying to find work and the taxpayers, in essence, the employers and the taxpayers, are funding them to sit at home and twiddle their thumbs,” Dunn said.
Requirements for Unemployment Benefits
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, a person is eligible for unemployment benefits if they are totally or partially unemployed and meet all of the requirements below:
- Request payment for weeks of unemployment
- Be capable, physically and mentally, to work
- Be available for a full-time job
- Participate in required reemployment activities
- Respond to TWC or Workforce Solutions office requests
Work Search Requirements
In addition to the requirements above, a person must also meet all of the work search requirements below:
- Register for work in your state
- Search for work
- Document your search activities
- Apply for–and accept–suitable full-time job offers
Rogge Dunn discussed these work search requirements and scenarios in which a person could lose their benefits. “You have to fill out a form and turn it in to the TWC to prove that you are making an active job search,” Dunn said. “If you don’t make an active job search or you get offered a job and you turn it down, then your unemployment benefits stop.”
Dunn stated that this requirement also applies to accepting jobs from your previous employers. He gave an example: “If your exact same employer lays you off or furloughs you because of COVID and then asks you to come back and you’re getting unemployment benefits…if you don’t take that back the Texas workforce commission will cut off your unemployment benefits.”
However, according to Dunn, there are exceptions to the rule. Under OSHA rules, employees can refuse to work if it’s a dangerous environment. Therefore, employees are not required to return to their old job “if, for example, they had an employer who didn’t provide masks or had an unsafe environment.”
To view the KHOU 11 news segment and accompanying article, click here.