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New York’s unemployment insurance [“UI”] benefit program provides cash benefits to people who have worked long enough, who have lost employment through no fault of their own, who are ready, willing and able to work, and who are actively seeking work.

Failing to prove that you have looked for work can defeat an otherwise valid UI benefit claim. The New York UI benefit program is administered by the New York State Department of Labor [“NYSDOL”].

How Should a Work Search be Done?

A work search record should be kept for each week that you claim that you are entitled to UI benefits. A record can be written (usually on the NYSDOL’s WS5 form) or kept online (http://www.jobzone.ny.gov/). The record must include dates, names, addresses (mail, e-mail or web address) and telephone numbers of employers contacted, names and/or job titles of specific people contacted, contact methods used and the position or job title applied for. You may also include a description of other work search efforts used (attending job fairs, workshops, vocational rehabilitation, etc.).

The NYSDOL requires you complete at least three “work search activities” per week. These activities must be done on different days of the week (meaning you must be performing some form of work search at least 3 days per week). At least one of these activities must be using employment resources at the local Career Center, visiting a job site and completing a job application, submitting a job application or resume in response to a public notice, attending a job search seminar, job fair or other employment-related workshop, or interviewing with possible employers.

You must be prepared to provide a copy of your work search record to the NYSDOL when requested. If you do not keep an online record of your work search efforts, you can obtain the proper written forms online, at your local Career Center or in the back of the Claimant Handbook.

Does the NYSDOL Verify my Work Search?

YES. The NYSDOL will verify the information provided on your work search record. If false information is knowingly provided about your work search activities, it is fraud. Findings of fraud can be accompanied by significant penalties.

What Happens if I am Offered a Job?

You must accept “suitable” work. Suitable work is work that you can reasonably do considering your past training and experience. Typically, this is work in your most recent occupation.

However, after collecting 10 full weeks of UI benefits, the definition of “suitable” is expanded to include: (1) Any work you can do, even if you have no training or experience in such work unless you are hired through a union hiring hall or have a definite date to return to work, (2) such work must pay at least 80% of your high-quarter base-period wages and must pay the prevailing wage for such work, and (3) you must be willing to travel a reasonable distance to get work which includes one hour by private transportation or one and one half hours by public transportation.

Is Anyone Exempt from the Work Search Requirements?

YES. The NYSDOL should tell you if you are exempt. You may be exempt if:

  1. You are temporarily laid off or seasonally employed and have a definite return-to-work date of four weeks of less.

  2. You are a Union member who must obtain work through the Union hiring hall. You must be in compliance with your Union’s membership and work search requirements.

  3. You are participating in a training program approved by the Department of Labor.

  4. You are serving on a jury.

  5. You are participating in a NYSDOL approved shared work program.

  6. You are participating in a NYSDOL approved self-employment assistance program.

  7. You are covered by any other exemption required by state or federal law.

In Closing

If you apply for and receive UI benefits, be prepared to perform and document a work search in compliance with the NYSDOL’s requirements. Do NOT falsify your work search records as the penalties for doing so are MUCH worse than not receiving UI benefits. When in doubt, contact your local Career Center for guidance. Lastly, if you think you may be exempt from the work search requirements, ask a NYSDOL representative BEFORE discontinuing your work search.