Salary Negotiation While Claiming Unemployment
August 28, 2017 5:31 PM   Subscribe

I was laid off last month, and while the job search is slow, the app->tech screen->onsite pipeline is looking promising. What I'm trying to figure out now is, how do I navigate unemployment 'suitable work' criteria while negotiating salary?

I'm actively qualifying for benefits currently in Oregon. My reemployment plan letter defines my labor market as 'Nationwide' in the field of 'Programming.' I'm not sure what all that labor market entails, but the UI rep suggest that it lets me spend more than 3 days outside the state without losing benefits, if I have say, back to back interviews in DC or SFBay or wherever. Which is good, because the local market in town is weak, and I took a job here to work for a specific unit in a non-profit that turned out to be ... more non-profit than desired.

I'm also informed in the same letter that I need to be willing to accept the standard rate of pay for the listed type of work in my labor market. At this point, I'm concerned about negotiating salary. I have a decent amount of savings, but UI is sufficient enough to live on, and I would prefer to maintain the UI income as long as possible on the philosophy that at any moment presidential politics could unravel new job opportunities.

The situation I fear is the following: I apply to a place in SFbay or Seattle or NYC and they offer me like 8 percent less than I was making in Oregon working for a team that had problems recruiting in due to low salary, obliging me to accept a lowball offer, or decline the offer and lose UI benefits.

I wasn't able to find any Nolo books on the subject of UI, and regulations seem to vary from state to state. So I'd appreciate any insights on the following questions:

1. Am I allowed to counteroffer work offers and claim UI? Is there specific language I should use to avoid triggering a benefit denial while negotiating?
2. Am I allowed to reject an offer after adjusting for CoL differences, or is the standard rate of pay implied to be a one size fits all national thing?
3. Should I mention the layoff in cover letters or interviews? Or should I obfuscate my employment status to improve my bargaining position?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAL and I don't live in Oregon, but I have in the past turned down job offers that didn't pay enough while on UI.
posted by lunasol at 5:42 PM on August 28, 2017

... And I didn't lose my benefits! The important part.
posted by lunasol at 5:43 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The cleanest way is to make sure they don't make an insufficient offer. Get some numbers out of them before the official offer, and if it isn't close to good enough, withdraw from interviewing. This is a strategy given in a Washington state unemployment introduction meeting by one of the officials running the program to avoid worrying by job seekers and excessive work for them to green light rejections.

1. Of course you are. The only complication that could possibly arise is they don't accept your offer and you don't accept their initial one. They also don't know anything about your unemployment benefits.

3. Only if your former boss is willing to cover for you, and even then it's a risk you lose an offer if they find out later. If you don't get anything good soon, it might be worth the risk.
posted by flimflam at 6:56 PM on August 28, 2017

So, in Oregon, this is all self reported. When you post for your unemployment benefits each week, you have to list out x jobs you applied for, and y actions you took to further your job search (this includes things like updating your resume, or researching other jobs you're qualified for). When you're on unemployment, you're applying for loads of jobs. Make sure you're applying for more than a few jobs that you sure as fuck aren't going to get each week.

You only list the jobs you have zero chance of getting, the unemployment office will only follow up on jobs you have zero chance of getting, therefore not jeopardizing your unemployment benefits (but, they rarely follow up anyway...).

It feels sketchy, but this strategy was given to me by an employee of one of the Oregon Unemployment Offices.

1. Yeah, sure. go nuts. If you follow the above protocol, it doesn't matter if you even get an offer.
2. I'm not sure, but when I was on unemployment, it seemed that it was pretty legit not to just take 'any' job, but one that met your prior wages.
3. Nah. Save that for in-person where you have more control over the spin.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:00 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ditto everything furnace.heart says. Try to make your reporting as easy on yourself as possible. Do not let them get involved in your real job search as that is never cool for you. Do not let things get reported in a way that an employer that you are interested in has to deal with Oregon unemployment office. There's no upsides to that. Good luck in your search! Hopefully, you will get a great offer soon and be excited to go work for them!
posted by amanda at 8:48 PM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

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