Labor and Economic Opportunity
Michigan’s unemployment insurance law and the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires individuals collecting unemployment benefits to be available for suitable work and accept an offer of suitable work. When an employer makes an offer of suitable work to an employee or makes an offer for an employee to return to their customary work, the employee can possibly lose unemployment benefits if he/she refuses. Wages, workplace safety, and other factors are considered in determining whether work is “suitable.”
Check with each government entity for up-to-date guidance and regulations.
Work is not considered to be suitable if the employer is unable or unwilling to provide a safe workplace as required by current state and federal law and guidance. Employers have the burden to prove that workplaces are safe and in compliance with appropriate workplace safety laws and guidance.
Employees who refuse to accept “suitable work” without “good cause” can lose unemployment benefits. However, “good cause” is expanded based on Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders, federal law, and Unemployment Insurance Agency (Agency) guidance to include COVID-19 specific reasons an employee may have for refusing to return to work. See Fact Sheet 145C COVID 19 Unemployment Benefits – What is Suitable Work?
Both employers and employees have an obligation to report offers and refusals of suitable work to the Agency. If an employer makes an offer of suitable work to an employee, and the employee refuses to return to work, then the Agency will conduct a fact specific inquiry into the situation. The fact specific inquiry could take several weeks.
The employer should notify the Agency of the refusal online using the employer’s MIWAM Account. Due to high call volumes during this time, employers are encouraged to submit correspondence to the Agency online and not by telephone. Provide the following information:
If the Agency finds that the employee did not have good cause to refuse to return to work, the employee: (1) will likely not be eligible for further unemployment benefits, and (2) will likely have to pay back unemployment benefits they received while waiting for the Agency to make a decision. If the Agency finds that the employee did have good cause to refuse to return to work, the employee will likely continue to be eligible for future unemployment benefits and will likely not have to pay back unemployment benefits.
Employers and employees are encouraged to communicate openly about workplace safety practices, sick time policies, reopening requirements, and employee-specific concerns about returning to work. Both employers and employees should also document workplace compliance with health and safety guidelines, correspondence (including complaints and inquiries) to MIOSHA, and communications between employers and employees about returning to work. Learn more about COVID-19 workplace safety at www.michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety.
If employers are financially distressed, they may use the Michigan’s Work Share Program to maintain operations during declines in regular business activity rather than laying off employees. The program allows employers to keep employees working with reduced hours, while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to make up the portion of the lost wages. For more information, review Fact Sheet 156C, visit Michigan.gov/workshare, or call the Office of Employer Ombudsman at 1-855-484-2536.
Employers seeking to lay off employees should review the Employer Filed Claims (EFC) program, which streamlines the unemployment benefit claim process for any employers faced with temporary or permanent layoffs. Employers can submit basic employee information on behalf of their employees to initiate claims for unemployment benefits. Visit the UIA website at Michigan.gov/uia or contact the EFC unit through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 1-855-484-2636.