On February 16, 2010, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, in McNeilly v. Department of Employment and Economic Development (A09-895), ruled that employees subject to regular seasonal lay-offs, who anticipate returning to work with their same employer, are still obligated to be actively seeking employment during their time off in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Mr. McNeilly is a landscaper who regularly is laid off from January through March of each year and then returns to work as a supervisor for a landscaping business. During his time off, he drew unemployment and attended some training programs, at the request of his employer, and stayed in regular contact with them. When he indicated on his electronic filing with Unemployment that he was not actively seeking work, he was informed that he was not eligible for unemployment benefits.

He requested a hearing and when his claim was denied by the administrative judge, he appealed to the Court of Appeals. They upheld the judge’s decision and ruled that even seasonal employees are required to be actively seeking suitable employment during the time they are receiving unemployment benefits.

Employers who regularly lay off workers and then recall them should be careful to advise them that they must meet all eligibility requirements of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, including the requirement that they actively seek suitable employment in order to receive those benefits.