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Decisions, decisions: As businesses reopen, workers must choose unemployment or return to work

Texas Workforce Commission requires people to look for work while on unemployment benefits.

HOUSTON, Texas — As businesses prepare to reopen on May 1, people receiving unemployment benefits will have to weigh their options: do they get back to work or stay on unemployment.

Some are worried about making enough money while others are concerned about their health and safety.

Some people, however, run the risk of losing their benefits depending on what they do.

Rogge Dunn, an employment attorney with Rogge Dunn Group, said the Texas Workforce Commission requires people to look for work while on unemployment 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 said the requirement doesn’t just apply to new job opportunities.

He said, “And if your exact same employers—so if the restaurant lays you off or furloughs you because of COVID and then asks you to come back and you’re getting unemployment benefits and they say, ‘Here is your old job,’ if you don’t take that back the Texas workforce commission will cut off your unemployment benefits.”

Dunn said there are exceptions to the rule.

“If, for example, they had an employer who didn’t provide masks or had an unsafe environment, didn’t observe social distancing,” he said.

Under OSHA, employees can refuse to work if it’s a dangerous environment.

Dunn said unemployment is designed as 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.