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OPINION: Time to fix State Labor Department’s way of dealing with part-time workers

People wait on line at a job fair in Manhattan last year. AP Photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — How many days a week do most people work? Five.

However, the New York State Department of Labor’s unemployment regulations seems to believe we all work four-day weeks. Don’t believe it? Look at the regulations for what happens when you work part-time while still receiving unemployment:

 “Each day or part of a day of work will result in a payment of a partial benefit as follows:
• 1 day of work = 3/4 of your full rate
• 2 days of work = 1/2 of your full rate
• 3 days of work = 1/4 of your full rate
• 4 days of work = No benefits due”

Apparently, the Department of Labor doesn’t know basic math. Here’s another example: If someone has a part-time job and works even one hour, he or she forfeits the entire day! Again, thinking back to my math classes, I don’t think the typical workday is one hour.
If, say, a typical work day is supposed to be eight hours (and it rarely is nowadays, but let’s just pretend), then if a recipient of unemployment insurance works one hour, shouldn’t they forfeit one hour and be paid for seven (or six, depending on whether you count a lunch hour or not)? Also, if someone is on unemployment and works one day out of the week, shouldn’t he or she be paid four-fifths of his usual check, and not three-fourths?

The state’s antiquated rules were probably been formulated in a day and age when part-time work was extremely rare, and the great majority of people in the workforce worked either full-time or not at all. The original bureaucrats of the 1930s who formulated these regulations may well have thought that people who claimed part-time work were trying to get away with something, and wanted to make things difficult for them so they could find full-time work and get off the unemployment rolls.

This is no longer the case, if it ever was. The number of part-time workers, especially in service industries, has been rising, especially what the government calls the “involuntary part-time,” meaning those who would like to work full-time but aren’t able to find full-time jobs. Thus, discriminating against them by short-changing them gives them a double whammy, so to speak.

One may ask — won’t straightening this part-time situation take more money from our tax dollars? No, on the contrary — it will encourage part-time work, and the state Department of Labor may very well save money by having to pay out less! Look at it this way — say, there’s an unemployed person receiving unemployment insurance. He or she gets an offer to work three mornings a week. But because the rules say that if he or she works even one hour, he forfeits the entire day, that person decides not to take the job and risk his unemployment payments.
Now, however, that person will have no qualms about accepting the job because he’s sure that he’ll be treated fairly by the state, and the state will actually save money by only paying him for those hours he doesn’t work.

December 30, 2013 - 2:30pm


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